Monday, February 28, 2011

Unconquered Canyon

For the past 2 years I've heard about Turnbull Canyon from Ray. He excitedly told me about the great mountain biking trails, the awesome view, the winding road, and water tower sitting atop the hill. I lived in La Mirada for almost 20 years oblivious of this canyon's existence even though I was only twenty minutes away. Last week, we took a short drive to Whittier and scoped out Turnbull Canyon. From the car Ray showed me the trails he used to bike on and the water tower high on the hill. He transformed into an excited little boy bouncing in his seat so we decided to hike the following weekend, rain or shine. We've been so consumed with family obligations that carving out OUR time was imperative. 

Yesterday was the day that my bony arse got sorely kicked by Turnbull Canyon. Ray scoffed at me when I suggested stuffing a backpack filled with water, protein bars, sunscreen, wipes and camera. "It's not that serious!" he told me. I brought my backpack anyway (because we all know how well I listen) and he lugged only his water bottle.  Even though there were severe storms in other parts of the city the weather was favoring us. The previous night's rainfall purified the air so much the scenery was as crisp and clear as high-definition t.v. 

I was ready for what I assumed was going to be a leisurely hike but I was horribly mistaken. My daydreams of getting to the top of the hill, twirling around with arms flung wide, gustily singing The Sound of Music like Maria in the movie, were going to be crushed. I should have known that my daredevil boyfriend was going to take me off the beaten path. My first warning flag came when Ray wanted to follow this guy who sprinted up this steep, muddy, crooked path with what looked like ski poles. And we weren't even near the entrance yet! I was chagrined to see Ray attempting to follow him. Although I balked and told him I'd take the regular path and meet him at the top, my stupid pride propelled me forward then upward. You can take the girl from being a tomboy but you can't take the tomboy out of the girl. That will always be my downfall. I was secretly relieved when Ray decided to turn back and head for the entrance. Yeah, where all the normal people enter!  

This sign heralded our arrival which was a total buzzkill to my Sound of Music daydreams. There were NO mountain lions threatening Maria when she sang up on that hill! 

I warily followed behind him distrusting that gleam shining out of his eyes. See his stance? No bueno. It means he's gearing up to do something crazy. My gut was right...

...this is the hill Ray decided to take instead of the regular path. Looks pretty tame and innocuous, right? WRONG! My picture doesn't convey the steep grade. 

I was going to remain below while he attempted to hike up the hill but halfway there he beckoned me. "It's not that bad! There are holes you can stick your feet in." I galvanized my pitiful hubris and trekked up to meet him. And it really wasn't that bad until...

...until the ground started getting closer and closer to my face. I thought for sure I was going to get a free mud facial on my first hike at Turnbull Canyon. The higher we got, the steeper it became, and I ended up crawling/climbing/shimmying/panting up the hill. Soon the Sound of Music soundtrack playing in my head flipped into Rage Against The Machine's Bullet In The Head. Why couldn't I be a girlie-girl instead of always trying to outdo the big boys?! Ugh! I thought my boyfriend's moniker, DJ Curse, was apropos as I was cursing the damn mofo with each searing breath I took. He must have either heard me or my mental telepathy slammed his brain because he suggested I stop to rest while he sprinted (sprinted!) to the top (which wasn't far) to see what was awaiting us. I plopped into the soft, squishy mud and situated myself to make sure I didn't slide down. I finally had the courage to look down and I almost spewed bile on myself. Did I also say I was afraid of heights? This picture shows my view from almost to the top of the hill, my view looking down the hill, and the sane people walking on the regular path! No, those aren't ants, they're people!!!! 

I was gung-ho to climb the rest of the way up. But when Ray called down saying there was no other path up there except another one that was steeper and higher, I felt the gusto seep out of me. Oh helllll to the nooooo! I yelled. As I rested I mentally listed the inventory of my backpack and the contents of my stomach. Which was coffee. In my excitement I had forgotten to eat breakfast. Again.Thank God I never leave home without my favorite Think Thin protein bar stashed somewhere. You know, for the times I forget to eat! I gritted my teeth when Ray effortlessly sprinted back down the dratted hill while I only had energy to ungracefully drag my butt down the dirt and mud. I didn't care. I wanted to get down on solid ground. Even in my lost dignity I refused his offer to help me and I vaguely recall swatting his hand away. Hmmph, I could do this myself thank you very much! 

Back on solid ground we walked up the path that I now call "the path of sanity" and enjoyed the scenery despite the drying mud  splattered on my face, hair, hands, shoes, pants, fingernails, and camera. Yes, my camera. How did the war photographers' cameras survive the dirt?  I wondered. 

Mister Dardevil himself. 

My victory was short-lived because me and my deflated, muddied butt were crying later. Like the next morning when I could barely move from the pain in my lower back. 

It's a good thing that I didn't research Turnbull Canyon's history and urban legends before our hike because what I dug up on the internet freaked me the heck out. Read it here

I'll close this post with pictures that Ray took while I was busy shoving a protein bar down my stupid throat like a barbarian. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Family Comforts

It's been one of those weeks. You know, the kind that renders me immobile, not physically but mentally. There wasn't a specific event that contributed to my static mental state, I just felt that my brain was on autopilot. I consumed inordinate amounts of caffeine and chocolate to no avail. No spark. I was feeling healthy with my current vegetarian/pescatarian diet but still, I felt devoid of emotion. To keep my sanity I armed myself with the Word because even though I couldn't FEEL anything I knew that would sustain the peace and fill my mental chasm. On my way home from work my sister called to tell me that my granddaughter and our brother's five kids were over. The supercharged jolt that jarred my chest surprised me because for the first time this week I felt excited. For once this week I was not a programmed computer, I was a human being rife with emotions. I was welcomed by the sight of my youngest nephew and my heart liquefied into a syrupy mess. I'm teaching him how to speak. His first words will be, "Auntie Nette is my favorite auntie." 

Of course, when my granddaughter Rylee is surrounded by her aunts and uncles, her Gramma Nette is chopped liver. Almost non-existent. Her apathy is evident in this picture. 

It took me numerous takes, much cajoling and bribing, and weird contortions on the floor to get this image but they happily obliged when I promised they would get to eat the cake that Auntie Lu was baking. The unadulterated joy infecting their smiles electrocuted me. I couldn't take it. 

My nephew's little friend, BB, was just as hard to photograph as they were. But BB made me laugh and that was good! 

As my niece and I had a camera face-off I realized hers was way cuter. She took candid shots of me and that was a big no-no! There is a reason why I am always behind the camera and like a true photographer, she didn't delete the pictures she took of me. Thank God she's too young to have a Facebook.  

 See these faces? They still think I'm cool and funny! 

It is the comfort of family and the untainted innocence of children that resuscitate my mental demise. They infuse life and light where death and decay permeate my brain. Because of them I can face the rest of my week with an energy born from babes. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Daughter, My Philanthropist

I am my children's biggest fan and I know I don't express it to them enough. As a single mom you don't accept defeat even when your kids' behavior tells you that you're the biggest and baddest BAD guy that existed. Defeat was not an option because I believed in the potential of my children despite the hatred that shot out of their teenage eyes. There were millions of moments that my heart would collapse into abstract fragments of pain and I allowed myself to wallow in them. But I never accepted defeat. I didn't want my kids to be "somebody" for the world, I wanted them to be somebody they respected and loved. So...defeat was not a choice. I persevered. 

My season of reaping the rewards of a single mom's sacrifices has finally arrived. My three children have grown up and reached their potential above and beyond what I ever dreamed or hoped for. I am able to look upon them, separate from me, with pride and a deep abiding love. My guidance, albeit faulty, has helped them pave their own path in life. My oldest daughter, Maricelle, is blazing her fiery trail in the world of medicine. Last month, she traveled to Honduras on a medical mission trip and had a life-altering shift in perspective. Below is her story, her words, and her journey. I salute her. 

Most Memorable College Experience While Attending San Diego State University

If living a "perfect day" meant performing acts of kindness without expecting reciprocation, then I certainly had seven "perfect days" when I traveled to Honduras as a medical volunteer. Last month, I had a wonderful opportunity to journey to Honduras with S.D.S.U. Global Medical Brigades, a non-profit organization comprised of forty five nursing students and five medical professionals. I had the privilege of spending a week traveling to the rural areas around the capital city of Tegucigalpa, where we set up medical clinics for the local villagers to come and receive medical treatment free of charge. Over our weeklong stay in Honduras, we served over 1,000 patients, in which they received care for medical, dental, and gynecologic issues. 

My experience in Honduras has left a lasting impression because I was able to represent S.D.
S.U. in a third world country by applying my nursing skills to those who have no access to health care. The brigade significantly increased the quality of my education by utilizing learned medical practice from S.D.S.U. and carrying it out to an impoverished country. It was a reality check to be exposed to a poor country that was in desperate need for quality health care. I realized how thankful they were for simple medical needs. For example, there was a long line of children waiting in anticipation to get their teeth cleaned by me. 

This adventure to Honduras has changed my life because I gained experience in humanitarian nursing where my philanthropic passion was ignited by helping others. My participation with S.D.S.U. Global Medical Brigades has enabled me to accomplish my career goal as a traveling nurse in third world countries, ultimately working for Doctors Without Borders. I am humbly grateful for my experience in Honduras as an S.D.S.U. nursing student and aim to continue the reputation of the university's academic excellence. I am a proud Aztec. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'm ALIVE...and crazy

Last month my sister, Nelyn, signed both of us up for the Redondo Beach Superbowl 10k Run. When she told me she was registering us, I carefully removed any traces of shock from my face. Number one, my sister HATES running and number two, she...well...HATES running. I've secretly longed to run a race with her but knew any attempts at convincing her would be futile. Instead of dramatizing this new venture of hers I opted for stoicism. 

One of my 2011 behavioral changes was to stop obsessing over training for or running any races. Last year, I severely injured my back and missed out on 2 half-marathons which led me to believe that supernatural forces were on a covert mission to stop me from running. So this year I decided I was going to focus on healing my body until my sister registered us for the 10k run. I had 3 weeks to buck up and shut up. I wasn't going to talk about it, I was going to just do it. 

Things were going well and I almost forgot about the supernatural forces on their covert mission to abort Nannette's running plans until I went down with the flu five days ago! My sister and I were both sick. I fought it, succumbed to it, then wasted my entire Saturday in bed. I drank Nyquil like it was wine, took Robitussin during the day to get through work, was told by my co-workers that I resembled death, and thought I was never going to leave my bed yesterday. Ray very cautiously chose his words of concern and asked if I was going to be able to run on Sunday. I told him I was (in between my hacking coughs.) 

Call me stubborn, call me crazy, heck, call me stupid, or call me all of the above but I defied my body's sickness very early this morning. I promised Ray I wouldn't overdo it. I assured him I would only walk the entire 6.2 miles and tried to silence the little voice I heard that said I was not going to listen to my convictions. 

It was overcast and chilly this morning and my sister and I swigged Robitussin with a healthy dose of prayer. We told each other we'd walk...ONLY walk...but we both gave the other that knowing look only sisters can decipher. I warned her that she was going to become addicted  after this and she quickly shot me down. Undeterred by her vehement denial, I insisted that once she felt empowered by the high of running she was going to be hooked, obsessed, and addicted. "There is no drug or alcohol that compares to the high you're going to get when you cross that finish line. You will feel empowered and no one, not even a guy, will take that from you." I was right, of course. I AM the older sister. 

We were enveloped by the incessant hum of unrestrained energy that reminds me of the ascending buzz I get after imbibing half a glass of wine. It was affecting my sister and I knew we were going to be addicts together. True to nature, we didn't walk the entire 10k but ended up running the last few miles, crossing the finish line with hands clasped and held high in victory. We did it! But I still have to buck up and shut up because I know if I complain about jacked knees, a sore back, or worse, a flu relapse, I won't get any sympathy from Ray. 

Future members of running addicts anonymous: 
Daly, Me and Nelyn at the start line

Pachapor, Daly, and my sister: my new running fiends, I mean friends.

 You think I'M crazy? These are some of the people in their costumes! I didn't stop to take a picture of the bride-to-be and her bachelorette party, the Elvis impersonator, a group of Golden Girl wannabes in skimpy mardi gras attire, or the group running as a Chinese dragon. 

I tried to beat this man, I really did! Instead, I choked on his dust. 

 To fuel the energy we expended we treated ourselves to Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mediterranean food and...

...homemade Tiramisu (my favorite) and lemon bread pudding dessert!