Thursday, August 18, 2011

hiking, getting lost, angels and devils

Hello there!
Wow! This feels awkward!
I haven't blogged in such a long time, I don't know how to start.

Well, I thought I'd tell you about one of my adventures with Ace.
Not sure there's anyone out there to read this anymore (actually, there two people that I'm gonna force to read this. They commented on my facebook page that I should blog about this...tempted me to blog know who you are!)

Anyhoo, back to my story.
Ace and I have been hiking a lot lately.
I guess you'd call it that. Not sure what the difference between walking and hiking is, but hiking sounds cooler.

So, as I was saying, we've been hiking a lot.
It started because I was getting sick of taking Ace to a "dog park" daily.
Dog parks are great, don't get me wrong. I may have strangled Ace as a puppy if it weren't for dog parks. There are some really nice ones around here. Big fenced in areas where you can let your dog off leash and let him run around and play with other dogs. Some of them are pretty fancy with agility equipment, doggie drinking fountains, ponds for swimming and such.
And I met a lot of nice dog owners while standing around at these parks.

But that's just it, I got kind of tired of standing around.
One day last fall, a woman told me about her favorite park where she likes to walk her dog.
So Ace and I decided to check it out the next day.

It turned out to be a beautiful nature preserve with miles and miles of trails.
Some of the trails are wooded, some are across prairies, some are paved, some are gravel, some are just dirt. There's a big lake and lots of wild life to see. Oh, and don't even get me started on the wild flowers!

Ace and I started going there every single day. Rain or snow or freezing temps didn't stop us (okay, I'll admit, when the wind chill drops below -10, I draw the line!).
And soon we started hearing of other dog owners favorite parks. Ace and I always went and checked them out. And then it became kind of a challenge, trying to find new and interesting places around the Chicagoland area.

I'm amazed at all the parks my new home has to offer. I'm even more amazed at how much I love hiking around these parks.

I have begun to expand my search for fun places to hike. I don't mind driving an hour or two to hike a beautiful place.

A couple weeks ago my family was vacationing in Wisconsin. We were camping near the Dells. It was Ace's first "long" camping trip with us. The kids wanted to go to one of the water parks one day. We decided The Hubby would take the kids and I would take Ace on a hike.

I chose Devil's Lake State Park because a friend (and fellow dog owner) recommended it.
It is truly an amazing place. I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape. The trails were perfect and it wasn't that crowded. Part of the reason it wasn't crowded was because the heat index was 108 that day.

I took 3 water bottles in my backpack. There were a couple places to refill so I figured that would be enough. We did the first part of the hike, what seemed to be a little less than 2/3rds of the way around the lake, without any trouble. I will say it was incredibly hot and I was trying be very conscious of how much water we drank so we wouldn't run out.

We stopped and had lunch, rested and I refilled our water bottles. I had talked to some other hikers who told me the last part of the hike was easier than the first part, so when we set off I was feeling a little more relaxed and maybe not as concerned about rationing our water as I should have been.

After about a mile of hiking, we came upon a large rock that was coming out of the ground and on one side of it was a cave. It was strange because the area we were in was more wooded than the other trails that we had been on. I walked around the left side of the rock and looked in the cave. The trail continued to the left and we followed it. I saw more giant rocks everywhere and they were beautiful (ask my family...I really like rocks). I wasn't paying much attention to the trail. Ace was in front of me and I was mainly looking up.

The next thing I notice is the trail is gone. Ace and I are standing in foliage. I turn around and I don't see a trail anywhere. When I look ahead and off to the left a little I think I see somewhat of a "path" so we keep walking. At first I thought we had just got a little side tracked, that the trail was just over to our left.

But as we walked, it soon became clear that we were not any where near the trail.
I don't know if you've ever lost your way in a densely wooded area before but I can tell you that it is extremely disorienting. I was amazed how quickly I lost sense of North. I also couldn't figure out the direction of the lake.

Ace and I kept walking. The terrain was steep and either rocky or covered in plants up to my shins (I was sure some of it was poison ivy). There were huge fallen trees we had to climb over. Ace was having trouble getting his footing. I should also say here that I had no cell phone coverage.

I kept stopping to listen, hoping I would hear people on the trail. What if I was going in the wrong direction and just getting deeper in the woods? We had already drank half of our water. What if we ran out? It was so hot! We kept going, slipping and stumbling.

I'm estimating that we walked for about 20 minutes like this (it probably wasn't that long...when your on the verge of panic a minute gets awful long) and then we came around a bend. Straight ahead was a small gorge with lots of big rocks that would take forever to climb over. To our right was a very steep hill with more fallen trees. I didn't feel like there was much choice, we had to go up the hill. I had to climb using my hands and had to help Ace over the first tree. As I climbed over, I scraped my leg pretty good. That's when I started to loose it. I felt tears coming to my eyes.
Just then, I saw a blonde woman standing at the very top of the hill. I felt a huge rush of relief. There was a human! The trail must be up there! Thank God!

I climbed the hill as fast as I could, helping Ace when needed. The whole way I kept thinking "oh thank God" and "this is almost over!". When we reached the top of the hill I looked up and my heart sank. All I saw was more dense woods. At least it was flat, but no trail, no blonde woman, no sounds. I called out "Hello?" but got no response.

I decided to try and go straight ahead a little further (seems so silly now because I was so disoriented). We continued to walk for a few more minutes and suddenly I heard voices. I immediately ran towards them as fast as I could. Finally, I could see a break in the trees up ahead. I saw a group of teens walk past (thank God for noisy teens!).

The teens were down the trail to our right when we finally stepped out of those awful woods. I wanted to kiss that trail. I've never been so happy to see a trail in my life. I walked on that trail as fast as I could without running. All I wanted to do was get back to my car and leave this place.

And so we walked fast. And we didn't see anyone else on the trail for a long time. As I was walking I started to wonder about that blonde woman at the top of the hill. Maybe it was dehydration or maybe the woods were playing games with my mind but a thought flashed in my mind for just a second....What if that blonde woman was really an angel?

But it was only a second. And not because I came to my senses and said "Nah!" but because right at that moment the woods spit out that blonde woman on the trail right in front of me.
And her husband too.
"Holy $#*%! (she didn't seem so celestial now) We have been lost in the woods for over an hour! I didn't think we were ever going to find our way out!"
They both actually feel to their knees on the trail and gasped for air like they had been under water instead of in a bunch of trees.

We walked for a while with our new friends and both agreed we'd made our navigational error at the cave. Then we came to a fork in the trail. They decided to take the "long way". I decided to take the advice of another hiker I'd met earlier that day and go on the trail called "Devil's Doorway".

Yep, I'm really THAT stupid....but that's a whole other story.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

my dry cleaner loves me

This morning I took some time to evaluate my job/ role as a wife.
You know, how I think I'm doing.

This isn't something I do on a regular basis.
Actually, I don't know if I've ever thought about it much.
Maybe never.

But three little words spoken to me this morning made me stop and think.
I'm sure you'll never guess what those words were.

It all started when I walked into the dry cleaners and the man working there said
"Hello, Mrs. Smith." (name changed for safety)

I stopped in my tracks and these were my thoughts...
He knows my name? Already?
We haven't been coming here that long!
The Hubby is the one that usually drops off and picks up his cleaning.
We must come here WAY too often!
He must think I'm a really bad wife, not doing my husbands laundry.

That's how the whole "let's re-evaluate your wifely duties" conversation in my head started.
I spent the drive home thinking about it.

I'd like to plead my case.
The Hubby and I had only been married a year or two and we were having the same fight over and over.
It was our "tube-of-toothpaste-fight".
You know how people tease newly married couples about fighting over squeezing the tube of toothpaste different ways.
I never really understood that.
Just buy two tubes for goodness sakes! Geez! (which we always have. I squeeze from the middle and Hubby neatly from the end... silly, I know).

So anyhoo, our "tube-of-toothpaste-fight" centered around laundry.
Specifically, me not doing it "right".

Week after week he pointed out this mistake of not hanging a certain shirt straight or that mistake of over drying a special pair of pants.
It was bad. Okay, I'll admit this was much bigger than some tube-of-toothpaste-fight.
Finally, one day I snapped.
"I'm done!" I announced. "From now on, you can do your own laundry."

And for almost twenty years I've held my ground.

As he has gotten busier with work over the years, more and more of his clothes go to the dry cleaners.
And I never really thought about it.
Until today.

That whole drive home I asked myself
"should you give in and do his laundry again?"
"are you a bad wife?"
"the fighting will start again. is it worth it?"

I decided I would bring it up with The Hubby when I got home.
If he thinks it's crazy the guy already knows me by name then maybe I'll start doing his laundry again.

You know, kinda like a "laundry sign".

He was in the shower when I got home.
"Honey?" I yelled over the noise of the water "You want to hear something crazy?"
and I told him.
"Oh, that's nothing! He knew my name by the second week. And you know what's really crazy? He has also known the last 4 digits of our phone number just as long!"

Whew! Turns out the laundry guy is just one of those freaky people that can remember people and numbers well (I like to call them freaky people only because I'm extremely jealous).

But there's something else that makes me wonder.
Just before we moved away from Kalamazoo I received a gift from the little old lady at the dry cleaners.
A very nice pair of hand made slippers (that Tony has stolen and won't give back to me)
I figured they gave them out to everyone.

Now I'm not so sure.

Friday, December 31, 2010

A holiday ode to my kids

Twas about a week after Christmas
and all through the house
the hubby and I awake in bed
laying there as quiet as a mouse

We were silently appreciating
our house full of discord
we knew it would soon be over
and all would be bored

Our teen and adult age children
and all of their friends
filling our home with chaos
we wished would never end

Slamming doors, laughing voices
stomping feet on the stairs
smells of 2am pizzas cooking
carelessly filling the air

Night after night of sleep interrupted
waking to a house in disorder
A grocery bill that makes your wallet cringe
and a laundry pile like no other

But all these things I cherish
there's no need to pretend
I realize my children will be grown soon and gone
my only wish is that these times would never end

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yes, I can hear you now.

I've been really bad about blogging lately.
Actually, I've just been super busy.
I do want to give you all a quick update on my surgery and say Thank you for all the prayers, well wishes and comments.

My surgery on December 1st went well. I expected a lot of pain but other than immediately post-op, it wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be.

I did have a few surprises.
The first was the complete deafness in my ear. I had severe hearing loss in that ear before the surgery but I was surprised at the difference.
I had about a week of total deafness.
It was weird.

I also didn't realize that it could be up to 3 months before I'd have my hearing back to normal levels.
Silly me, I guess I was so worried about pain, dizziness and healing time that I forgot to ask about the actual "hearing" part.

I was also surprised by the weird taste in my mouth.
I guess that is a complication of middle ear surgery. The best way to describe it is the taste of a really old piece of spearmint gum
that or sucking on a spark plug.

It's gross and makes everything taste funny.
You'd think I'd give up eating and maybe loose a few pounds,

I had a pretty cool experience on December 19th.
That was the day of my oldest daughters graduation from college (woo hooo!! I can't believe I didn't blog about this!)
I was driving home listening to the radio and suddenly something popped in my ear and I could hear better.
Not just better
I could hear my voice outside my head for the first time in years.
It was huge!
And exciting!

And guess what I did?
yep, I sang!
I sang to the radio the whole way home!
And it was glorious!
not my singing
but the fact that I could do it.

I went to the doctor a couple of days ago and had my hearing formally tested.
I was surprised to find out it's almost at normal levels.

I wanted to do a little dance.

I'm still getting used to my "new hearing".
I forget that I don't need to pick the right seats or position at a table.
I forget that I can use my left ear to talk on the phone now.
How cool is that?

Only one little complaint.
I'm back to wearing ear plugs at night for the Hubby's snoring.

He did have his surgery (as agreed to) for his nose.
The Hubby was a hockey and soccer player in his younger years and broke his nose several times.
He also had his nose fixed before but broke it again afterwards.

It was a solid mess.
So solid that he couldn't breathe through it.

I remember our first dinner date.
He sat chewing with his mouth open during the whole meal.
If I hadn't been so mesmerized by his beautiful eyes, I would have put a nix on the whole thing right then and there.
I thought he was extremely rude.
Little did I know, he was just trying not to suffocate.

So anyhoo, He had surgery on the 21st (see, I have been busy) and it really hasn't affected his snoring that much.
Actually, with the plastic stints they have sewn into his nostrils, he kinda whistles now.
A combination whistle snore thingie.

And I can't sleep.
But I can hear.
And I'll take that any day!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Time To Sing Again

I have finally given in.

After years of complaining (my husband and kids), insults (my teens), and embarrassing moments (the list is way to long),

I broke down and scheduled surgery to have my hearing fixed.

I have mentioned my hearing loss in past posts.

I usually talk about the benefits of being deaf in one ear and having a mild to moderate hearing loss in the other.

~not having to wear ear plugs to bed anymore to block out the Hubby's snoring.
~not hearing the trains or loud teens or puppy's ringing bells in the middle of the night.
~the wonderful excuse to use on my teens "I never agreed to that! I must not have heard you correctly!"

When I was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in my mid 20's it didn't really bother me.
I was just having trouble hearing what some people were saying (I thought everyone had suddenly taken up mumbling just to annoy me).

Over the years it has slowly progressed.

I remember asking my ENT doctor how I would know when I was ready for surgery.
He said "You won't but you're family will let you know. Your hearing loss will drive them crazy."

Such wise words.

If I can judge correctly, I'd say my family has been ready for at least 5 years.
But I'm just chicken.

My solution?
Just don't go to the doctor anymore.
See what I mean about chicken?

But there comes a time when it all adds up and you get tired of it.

Tired of not feeling included in conversations.
Tired of your kids rolling their eyes every time they have to repeat what they say two or three times.
Tired of always having to consider where you sit in a lecture or where you stand in a group of people.
Tired of putting a smile on your face when you have no idea what someone just said and in your mind you are going through all the possible things you can say instead of "what?" or "pardon" or "sorry, I didn't hear you" (it gets really old).

I guess what I'm saying is the bad is finally outweighing the good.

There are things that have also "snuck up" on me, you could say.
Things that had changed over time that I didn't really notice.

A big one is being able to hear my own voice.
It's difficult to explain (and I could be explaining it completely wrong) but I think it is because I can no longer hear my voice through my ears effectively so mostly, I hear myself in my head (no, I'm not hearing voices in my head-I know what you're thinking).

I guess the best way to put it is, that I don't sound like myself.

I think that is why I have slowly stopped singing.
I used to love to sing.
In choirs, in church, in the car while listening to the radio.

But I feel like I don't trust what I sound like
and what I do hear, I don't like.

I will be having my stapes bone removed and a prosthetic device implanted on December 1st.
And the first thing I look forward to doing is singing again.