Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Organized

Settling into and getting the house organized again after two tumultuous years continues to be a drawn out and time consuming affair.
After we moved back into our house we spent time pulling up carpets and staples and tack strips in the den and office, doing some reinforcement work on the gutters and privacy fence, painting rooms and lots and lots of cleaning.
As we were unloading the two trucks and the 16 foot trailer we brought home with us we dumped everything into the spare room and had boxes and plastic storage containers filling the entire room and stacked 3/4 way up the walls.
I sighed and then cringed every time I walked by the room but was determined not to close the door and forget about it all, which would have been the easiest short term solution.
When we first moved into the house we had only hard furniture - wooden desks and tables and chairs, and I ended up putting sleeping bags on the floor in a couple of different rooms for our dog to sit on because aside from the bed there were no soft surfaces to be found anywhere in the house.
Quickly I bought a couch and recliner and love seat, and soon we were given another couch.
We found area rugs - some of which are colors that we like and some that we can live with until we find better.
Shelf building.  Tree trimming.  Picture hanging.
And other things as we continue to settle into our lives and our home back in Tennessee.
There is still painting to do.  Still floors that need to be refinished.  Still glue that needs to be scraped off floors in the den in the corners.
There are still ends and odds located in random places all over the house, in addition to still too much stuff left to find homes for lying in the spare bedroom.
But gradually things are getting done, and gradually this house looks and feels more like our home again.
I took these pictures this afternoon while both my dog and my guy were taking a nap.
I will take more when I do not have to be quiet, when I can wash dishes and clear the perennial tools that have consumed the kitchen table since we moved in, maybe even when the paint cans and brushes and trays can finally be stored away for good.................

The picture above is of me about five years ago.
I was racing as a solo team during a 24 hour race in Eastern Tennessee.
I was just coming off bruised ribs and a concussion incurred during a race in South Carolina about six weeks before, and not wanting to work too hard and not wanting to have other team members depending on me I elected to do the race alone.
It was the middle of the hot and humid Summer and I used the race to test out things completely unrelated to team placement.
I used the race as navigation training. 
Trying to slowly and methodically navigate my way through 24 hours of racing.
And I used the race as an opportunity to just be alone with my thoughts, be alone with myself in the woods, and to just be physical for an extended period of time.
Rules for adventure races vary depending on the specific race.
Sometimes teams are required to locate all checkpoints in order.
Sometimes teams are required to get all checkpoints but can get them in any order.
And there are an increasingly large number of races these days where race officials simply set up a large number of checkpoints and you can get any number of them in any order - the team who locates most checkpoints in the least amount of time wins. 
Mode of transportation is nearly always stipulated (ie. CP12 - CP17 must be located on bike or CP1 - CP5 must be located on foot etc.).
This particular race I could find any checkpoints in any order.
With my support crew (who fed, watered and geared me up at transition areas throughout the race) we plotted the checkpoints and came up with a game plan of which points to get and which ones to blow off.
I was not a fast enough navigator to attempt all of them.
I was coming off injures and was traveling alone in the middle of the Summer, so planned to just go through the process and be slow and methodical.
Since CP1 was in the complete opposite direction from the rest of the race I planned on heading directly for 2.
The race began and all racers took off in a too-fast run along a paved trail that paralleled the river.
At a bridge a few teams veered from the pack, crossed the road and disappeared.
Paying them no attention I (like a mindless lemming) followed the bulk of the racers as they ran across the bridge and began climbing a very steep hill.
I breathlessly made it to the top of the hill and then finally thought about looking at the map.
And that is exactly the moment when I realized that I had been blindly following teams who were heading for Checkpoint 1.
 Often. and unfortunately, when I was racing it would take me a while - sometimes a good while - to settle into a race.
That is not a good quality in an adventure racer and I tried very hard to break that habit, because moving on trails, on rivers, in the woods, without thinking is never ever a good idea for so many reasons.
As teams in front of me disappeared from view and as other teams passed me while I stood in one place like a fool at the top of a hill, I regretfully turned around and headed back down the hill.
CP1 was just too far away for me to be able to make any kind of headway in the race and there were so many more checkpoints that were more accessible in the other direction that I could rack up in the meantime...........

After finding my way back down the hill, running through the parking lot, across a bridge and then across a road, I stopped for a moment to look at the map again. 
I was determined to "settle in" and realized that the only way I could do that was to slow down, take my time, think before I moved.
I was looking for a entry into the woods that quickly led to a draw that led to the trail. I could not find it.
I was running up and down the side of the highway unsuccessfully looking for the entrance (and there was NOBODY else around at that point - and it was only 8:20am - so by this stage I was not feeling overly confident even early in the race and was already quickly coming to the conclusion that I was in over my head and had no business being in the woods by myself).
I kept looking at the map, looking at the terrain, looking at the location of the dam and the curves in the road, trying to get it straight in my head and for some reason it was just not coming together.
The flattest entry point I could find was a creek and I looked down the creek and saw a small trail.  I went in.
I kept checking the compass and knew that I was at least heading in the right direction.
Finally the trail ended.
I looked across the creek and there was a trail across the creek.
I crossed over, followed the trail for a while (checking compass and still heading in the right direction), and eventually the trail ended again.
Looking to my right I saw that the trail picked up again across the creek.
I picked up the trail on the opposite side of the creek (again) only to find out that it fizzled (again).
I looked across the creek again trail. Nothing.
Nothing anywhere but thorn and prickly-filled bushwhacking nastiness from that point on in all directions.
The compass told me that I was heading in the right direction, but this whole thing was wrong and I knew it was wrong but I just COULD NOT figure out where to go from there and how to make it right.
By this time I knew for certain that I was in over my head and that I had no business being in the woods by myself.
I was totally dejected and found myself wondering whether or not I should break open my zip locked and duct taped cell phone and call my support crew to bail me out.
I kept checking the compass, kept moving forward, and started getting scratched and scraped to hell.
I did this for a while and decided to move higher up and try to get out of the thorns and thistles, but they were just everywhere.
By the time I had been doing this for probably 30 minutes I started to feel really claustrophobic.
The sun was "up there" (up the hill), I was in the middle of a skin tearing nightmare, I was definitely not going to find the trail off the creek bed and I still hadn't figured out how to get myself out of the mess that I was in the middle of, so early in the race.
I started heading up - and the dirt under my feet kept giving way and I kept sliding back down the hill.
I finally slid down uncontrollably about 10 feet and came to rest (with a thud) against a big tree stump and thought "that's it - stop moving - stop what you're doing, and figure this out".
I sat on the log like a bump on a log and did the Winnie the Pooh "Think Think Think".
I had done solo races before.
Navigation was not a big strength of mine but I had done solo races before.
This race was not going well but somewhere I knew that I truly was not in over my head.
I did not do anything but drink water and calm down for about 5 minutes, and then I finally looked at the map.
Of course, after settling, stopping, resting, drinking, everything began to make some sense.
I looked at the map and saw the creek, I saw the trail, I saw the incline I was heading up.
I wasn't exactly sure how far I had travelled along the creek, but I realized that I had overshot and needed to modify my N/NE heading if I was seriously going to try to hit this trail that had been eluding me.
I took a bearing and "up" was where I needed to be.
That was good enough for me - I headed up (still working through some really nasty bushwhacking the whole time).
I got to the top of the hill, headed southeast, started to head down the other side of the hilltop, looked down, and there was the trail.
The beautiful, calm, thorn-free trail.
It sounds quick, but I ended up bushwhacking through that crap for 1 1/2 hours, and by the time I hit the trail and checked direction (it was the right trail) my arms, legs and shoulders were trashed. 
A couple of minutes after I finally found the trail I had been looking for for so long I looked up and unexpectedly saw the race photographer.
He snapped the picture above.
About 18 hours later I finished the race, got washed up at the Boy Scout camp that was being used as race headquarters, and crashed dead tired in a tent my support team had set up.
They were already sleeping and I curled up in a sleeping bag beside them exhausted.
I ended up having a great race, and after the misfires early on went on to be the only female solo racer to actually finish the race.
Good times.................

This picture was taken in North Carolina about 10 years ago.
It was the very first time I had ever rappelled and was taken not long before I started racing...........
The dark green shelf was the one LC and I built a week or so ago.
We built it out of the same press board that was used as sideboards on the trailer when we drove across country from Wyoming to Tennessee.
I finally have a place to put all of my pewter that I have been collecting one or two pieces at a time from yard sales for.......well......a very long time.
The brown thing on the wall beside it is actually a metal squirrel.
The sled was a curbside find that I picked out of somebody's trash a long time ago.
And the TV was a gift for LC.
I bought it very cheap just after we arrived back in Tennessee also from a yard sale...........
The picture on the wall to the left of the door is of a place called Tennessee Pass in Colorado that my Mountain Boy visited long before we ever met each other.
He took that picture..........
Bought at a yard sale about a month ago, we both love this small painting that is on the wall in the kitchen...........
While I was working in Tennessee and before I left for a job in Juneau one of my colleagues was the proud owner of the metal hiking sign.
I do not know where he got it and always thought that it was better for me not to ask, but I coveted that sign.
For two years I wanted it and told him that I wanted it, and he (with his warped sense of humor) once made a photocopy of it and gave it to me as a poor substitute for the real thing.
That may have been right around the same time I taped every one of his desk items to his desk. 
Or maybe it was the time I wrapped an entire roll of tape around the padlock that was on his office door and it took him and one of the maintenance staff 20 minutes to break back into his office.
Either way I was not amused.
On my last day of work he gave me the sign because I was leaving and because he always knew how much I liked it.
It sat on a shelf in the Unabomber Cabin in Juneau, stayed in a box while in Cody and is now on a wall in the spare bathroom in our house.
I loved it then.  I love it now.
The oil cans are part of a group I have been slowly collecting also for a while now.............
They are heavy, they are whimsical, they are so very cute and I like them very much...........
We still have many pictures sitting in a pile in the spare bedroom and we still have one more shelving unit to build to greatly help clear that room out.
I put these pictures up on the wall this morning.
They are a combination of me as a child, my parents, the boys as young children, football pictures, a basic training graduation picture, and one of me on a bike.
The stories behind some of these pictures:
I wish that I could report that this is Jamie's favorite place to nap, but in reality she owns the place and simply lets us use it.
Couches, love seat, the bed.
She sleeps wherever she wants.
A more or less organized living room.
We bought the single pink headboard and foot board thinking that we would paint them and make them into a day bed in the spare bedroom instead of taking up so much room with a double or queen bed.
Now we are not so sure.
And so the boards have been sitting against a wall in the living room until we finally can make up our minds.
Which continues to feel like a non-issue because the spare bedroom is still too much of a mess anyway..............
It's big, it's black, it weighs a ton, it used to be in a fireplace but I bought it at a yard sale a very long time ago.
I love it.
I saw the same thing in an antique store in Wyoming for a whole lot more money that the little bit that I paid for this.
Which is nice to know but not important to know.
It sits, heavy and black, on the wall in the living room............
This wooden rudder is also a well travelled item.
I love this thing very much because it reminds me of my youngest son.
We went for a walk by the lake with our dog not long after moving from Canada to the United States.
Chris was fairly young at the time and we walked along the shore the day after a storm.
We found this rudder sitting on the grass on the shore only a few feet from the waterline and took it home.
It has been a cherished belonging ever since.
I love its lines, the texture of its old wood, its warm color.
I smile every time I look at it because it reminds me of Chris.
I smile thinking of my child.  And worry at the same time.
He has been out of touch with me for a long time now and I have news for him that I cannot share.
I miss him very much.
Today is his birthday...............
A set of shelves that my Mountain Boy and I built specifically for an ever-growing stoneware crock collection.............
My blue Alaskan shell collection sitting in a blue bowl on a table in the living room...........
My sweet girl.............

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