It was my birthday last week, and as always, I thought about my years here on this little planet so far. That’s what this post is all about. My past and what I can remember. How much I’ve already done. The places I’ve been and the places I have yet to go.
I first thought about my three trail birthdays (it’s pretty tough to beat a trail birthday, so they’re among my favorites). In 2006 I was on Argentine Pass, Colorado on the ADT with my mom and hiking buddy, Hickory. In 2009 I was on the Tahoe Rim Trail, cowboy camped for my very first time on a saddle below Freel Peak, with a gorgeous wildfire sunset view over Lake Tahoe. I was with my mom, dad, and friends Leo, Hickory and Ken. Last year, 2013, I was hiking with Rachel out of Sierra City after an epic cake and ice cream party organized by Adam the night before. I hiked up a mountain wearing a birthday hat and trying not to lose the helium balloon tied to my pack. I eventually popped it and tucked it into a pocket before the wind tossed it into a tree somewhere miles away. Camp that night was in the woods with Rachel, Bird Dog and King Street. All very great birthdays.
This year I was driving a truck through North Dakota. I woke up to Adam playing a birthday song on the radio and giving me a really sweet card. Throughout the day I enjoyed several texts, voice mails and fun facebook messages – you all made my day! With our short time off we visited my parents in Phillips. I tubed the Elk River, went for a run, ate dad’s fire-grilled steaks and mom’s garden-fresh salad, followed by her made-from-scratch carrot cake. Then we sat around the campfire with a few beers before heading inside and zonking out. It was really nice.
My life really started on July 16, 1979 in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I think I was nearly 10 pounds of chubby baby. My poor mother! I grew up in the Milwaukee area, living in Hartland, where I was too young to remember much of anything – Waukesha, where our apartment was broken into while we were away and the police confiscated the pot plant my mom was growing because she simply wanted to see how big it would get – Menominee Falls, where I played with my best childhood friend, Nick, and fell into the swamp minutes after mom said, “don’t play by the swamp.”
I honestly… sadly… don’t remember much about my childhood. Either my memory has always been this poor, or I lost some of it when I got sick in 1998. Either way, several “memories” exist only because I’ve seen photographs. If you ever wonder why I take sooo many photos – that would be why. It’s also one of the big reasons I write. To simply remember.
Anyway, when I was about eight years old, we moved up north to Phillips into the house my Aunt Margie lived in. She was moving out of state and my folks were wanting to escape the city. I am so glad I got to grow up surrounded by forest and field. I played in the mud, made “soup” from findings in the yard (who didn’t do this as a kid!?), and swam in the river with our neighbors Tami, Eric and Jamie. Tami wound up being my very best friend – the best friend I’ve ever had, despite our age difference of four years. We don’t see much of each other any more, but I think of her often, and haven’t found anyone that can match that level of friendship we had. I miss those summer days tubing on the river with her. A lot.
I became a teenager and was a snot to my parents, snuck cigarettes with my friends and smoked them in the alley next to the movie theater. I never went to many parties, but I could feel that I might be heading down a rough path.
Then I took a bus to state solo & ensemble. I played the flute and had a solo. Adam was on that bus, too. For singing, of course. We hung out, he bought me an Icee at the mall, I sat next to him on a hotel bed and noticed a tiny hole in his jeans just above the knee. I put the tip of my pinky finger in it and gave him a smile. This might have been when we fell in love… I don’t know. He then drove me home afterward and called me as soon as he got home to apologize for something he said, worried he might have offended me. I don’t even remember what it was, but I wasn’t offended. He was also the first boy I showed interest in that my brother approved of. I’d like to say at the time I didn’t care what my big brother thought of my decisions. But I did.
Meeting Adam was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I straightened myself out after meeting him. I wanted to care about school, I wanted to be good, and he supported me and let me spill my guts to him and bawl my eyes out about all the things I didn’t like about myself. I changed. He helped me like myself again and I love him for that.
I went to college. I got weak and tired and didn’t understand. Then I got diagnosed with a deadly blood disease. Aplastic Anemia. I had transfusions, treatments, side effects, several seizures, rode in a Life Flight helicopter, had my last rites read to me by a priest, and then my dad put a set of headphones on my ears and played “Lord Is It Mine” by Supertramp. I swear the love of my parents brought me out of that mess. God blessed me with that disease. It brought on several more changes in my life, most of which came on slowly and shaped me into who I am today. I love who I am because of it all, too.
I married Adam and graduated from college. I got a job as a graphic designer at 4imprint in Oshkosh and fell in love with the people and family atmosphere there.
I lost a bunch of weight… a journey all it’s own. I went from 235 pounds down to 170.
I was told I was in complete remission from Aplastic Anemia.
I had a new lease on this one, short, precious, fragile little life. So I planned a walk. A big walk. I hiked across America with my mom. Every step from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific. For nine months. Dad and Adam worked their rumps off at home to make that possible, too. In the end, we raised over $100,000 for awareness, research and support for the AA&MDSIF on that trek. So worth the hard work.
After that I kept working. I went on backpacking trips. I started running. I ran my first and only marathon in under four hours. A time I worked hard for and was so happy with I may never do another one. I weny skydiving. Twice. I hiked and completed the Frozen Otter – 64 miles in 22 hours, in January, in Wisconsin, in the freezing cold winter – overnight. This may have been the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done. But I did it. I was the fourth person to ever finish it.
I found that by staying really active I was constantly proving to myself that I was no longer sick. I used to tell myself while running, “no way you’d be running like this with low hemoglobin.” I was also striving for that damned flat tummy that my shape doesn’t allow for. I’m finally getting over that. Only took 35 years.
Then I went on another long walk. I thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with my friend, Rachel. Adam went along as vehicle support – for pretty much the entire hiking class of 2013. He is my hero.
Now he and I are driving an 18-wheeler around the country. It’s fun. It’s an adventure. And what do we talk about with all that time in the truck together? Future adventures. With smiles on our faces.
I turned 35 years old last Wednesday. It’s been great so far. I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t ask to be younger (at least not yet – haha!) and I just know that whatever time I have left, whether it be hours, days or years – I’m gonna find joy in all I do and love it all.
There it is. My life in a nutshell. I am satisfied. I feel like I’ve done a lot already. All I can do is hope for more.
Happy 35th birthday to me.
Tonight… I love my life.
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!