Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meditations from the Little Cottonwood Trail

I woke up either with the worst case of allergies I have ever had, or a summer head cold. Still, it was a gorgeous day, and the hike I had planned was pretty easy, so I set out on my first hike of the season. My husband was planning to paint on this hike, so I packed a small pack with some things to do:  a camera, bird book, slim paperback, small notebook, water and a snack. I figured that should tide me over while he painted.

Abandoned mill in Little Cottonwood Canyon

We quickly reached our destination, and I spent some time photographing. Today I had fun focusing on close up shots. The small automatic camera I packed is actually pretty good, and I had fun experimenting.

Little Cottonwood Creek

Rock Wall

Leaves over the creek.

Then I attempted to sketch. I don't think I have drawn anything in a couple of years. To say I was rusty is a gross understatement. Sketching didn't last long. I took pictures of my husband painting instead.

My husband has settled in to paint.

Okay, there are only so many shots you can take of a guy painting. So I pulled out my book. I had grabbed Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift From the Sea" off my shelf on impulse. It is on my list to read this year, and it was lightweight enough to stick in my pack. The opening pages swept me away with wonderful wisdom. 

"Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, and the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today's tides of all yesterday's scribblings. ...Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea."  --Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Here I was, in a very beautiful setting, trying to occupy myself. Suddenly it all seemed wrong. I put the book away, got comfortable, and looked around. The roar of the rushing water filled my ears. Occasionally, droplets of spray flew up and hit my skin. The air was cool and fresh. Wildflowers were starting to bloom. Two robins chased each other through the air.


I reflected on my fitness goal for this week:  meditation. I have had mild, but chronic, tension headaches for the past couple of months, and daily minutes of meditation and relaxation are starting to help. Why not meditate for a few minutes here? The water came into focus, and then blurred in my sight as I relaxed and let go of the tension in my face.  A mountain biker asked me for the time. I responded, and turned back to the water. Two hikers came and went. Meditation has as its goal a stillness of thought, however, distractions come. The important thing is to acknowledge them, and then let them go. Back to the mountain. Back to the water and the play of light on leaves.

I don't have Lindbergh's beach, but I do have the mountains. And for just a little while this morning, I had time.
Time to watch the light change on the ruins of the mill across the creek.
Time to watch the pattern of the water flow.

Time to see butterflies warm their wings in the sunshine.

Time for my hands to turn icy here by the snow-water rushing down stream.

Time to think.

Time to

For directions and info about hiking the Little Cottonwood Trail, click here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

First Hike of the Season

My summer list includes hiking. I am working to get in better physical shape, and have a couple of longer hikes I would love to do by autumn. My husband and I decided we had a long enough window in between dropping our teenager off at work and picking him up again to drive up the canyon and do a quick hike. (And no, the teenager cannot drive himself to work...he isn't 16 yet).

Abandoned mill on the Little Cottonwood Trail

For my first hike of the season, I chose the Little Cottonwood Trail. I have hiked it several times over the last few years, but my husband had never been on this trail. It is pretty kid friendly with a very gradual incline and lots of shade. The payoff at the end is the ruins of an old mill across the creek, and the rusting metal of an old car in the rocks. (I still have no idea how a car got up there, but today we met an older gentleman on the trail who said several years ago there used to be a bridge across the creek, strong enough to drive over).

Pieces of an old car.

One of my husband's contributions to our summer list was to "hike and paint." This is perfect for him, and gets mixed reviews from the family. Although we enjoy the hikes and soaking up nature while he paints, and have even painted a time or two ourselves, we are frequently done before he is. However, it was a beautiful day, and I was sure I could keep myself occupied for awhile, so off we went.

Wet, shady trail

The trail had a very wet section today. Usually when I do this hike, there is some water on one section of the trail, but today that section was a small stream, and I had to pick my way through it very carefully. This is a pretty easy hike, though, only 1.6 miles round trip. It took us about 30 minutes to reach our destination. The wildflowers were starting to bloom, the creek was full and cold with winter snow run-off, and it was a perfect morning to spend in the canyon.

mini-stream on the trail

Artist at play in the canyon.

And my husband got to paint. What do I do while he paints? Feed my inner shutterbug! Here are some samples from our hike:

Mill ruins

Long shadow.

Shadows on the rock.

Wildflowers in bloom.

Finished painting

For more information (driving directions, length of the hike, etc.) about the Little Cottonwood Trail, see my previous post about this great hike.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What's On Your Summer Bucket List?

I just finished reading a novel called "The Next Thing on My List," by Jill Smolinski. In this book, June Parker offers a young woman she just met a ride home. They are in a car accident, and the passenger, Marissa, dies. June finds a list Marissa had with her titled "20 Things to do Before My 25th Birthday." Marissa had only crossed off two things on her list. June is riddled with guilt over the accident, and decides to complete Marissa's list for her. Marissa's list includes things like "Run a 5K", and "Make Buddy Fitch Pay." This is a pretty light-hearted book, and a quick read. Smolinski weaves a good tale and June grows through her experiences of finishing Marissa's list.

I liked the idea of making lists of things to complete by my next birthday, rather than setting goals just at New Year's. But why wait for my birthday? With the advent of summer, it seemed like a good time to sit down and write a summer list with the family. My husband, son, and I sat down to write out our list.

Camping made our summer list.

Everyone got to contribute their ideas, and the list includes everything from A to pies to ziplines! We threw in "eating at a food truck," "driving 9-Mile Canyon," and "making homemade ice cream" as well. Suddenly my stay-cation summer is looking a whole lot better.

Homemade Apple Pie

I long for lazy summers with endless days stretching out before me, but the reality is I am not five years old anymore, and summer goes by too fast. Without a plan, I know we won't make the most of it. And honestly, I feel a bit cheated by my last two summers (cancer summer 2012 and broken ankle summer 2013). I am hoping to have a better summer this year.

Here are some other things on our summer list:
Make homemade slurpees
Visit the Olympic Park
Have a cookout in the canyon
Make s'mores in the backyard with our firepit
Visit the Hill Air Force Base Museum
Photography trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats

Western Tanager in our yard

Well, I have a list to complete--guess I had better get started!
What's on your list for summer?

Hiking made my list.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Farewell To Maya Angelou - 1928 - 2014

"Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently."  -- Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou 

Today the news broke of Maya Angelou's passing. I enjoyed hearing interviews with her because she always spoke in a well-thought out, articulate manner. She was a self-made woman, rising above many challenges in life to become an accomplished author. I admired her mastery of language, and her ability to rise above difficulty, and her talent for putting it all into words. I heard her recite her poetry on TV more than once, and I can still hear her voice in my head saying "I rise, I rise, I rise."  Thank you, and farewell, Maya Angelou.

Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

(Poem from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, copyright 1978, published by Random House.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stitch Glitch Part 2 - When to Call the Doctor & Wound Care

Packing strip for wounds.

"If it starts getting red and expanding out, call me," my doctor said before I left his office on April 15.
A few days later, I had a red rectangle forming to the left of my stitch abscess. The wound (nicknamed "Primordial Ooze") was responding well to treatment and looking much better, but what was causing the redness? My skin is pretty sensitive, and I chalked it up to irritation from pulling off the tape when dressing the wound.  I had another appointment scheduled on April 29, so I thought I would just keep an eye on it.

By the following Tuesday (April 22), it wasn't better. In fact, it was a little larger. And redder. And some skin was peeling, and there was a little lump that was sort of purplish and sore. I did not have a fever, but the area did feel warm to the touch. The clinic opened at 9am and I called and got an appointment for 11:15. If it was nothing, I was sure my doctor would tell me, and after all the work he put into this surgery, I was pretty certain it was better to have him look at it now than to wait until things got worse.

"It's a good thing you came in," he said.  He examined my red  incision area, thought for a minute, and then moved to the counter and started opening drawers."You're not going to like this," he continued.

"You want to open it up," I replied.

This time he used a local anesthetic (thank you!). Sure enough, there was some infection, and a couple more pieces of stitch to remove. Apparently my body likes to push out the stitches. Thankfully, at five weeks, they are almost all dissolved, so this shouldn't be an ongoing problem. My doctor gave me a prescription for an oral antibiotic to clear up the infection.. He assures me everything will heal fine and these abscesses won't affect the appearance of my scar. I just need to be a little patient while everything heals. Patience is a thing cancer patients get to practice quite often, so I am not too concerned about it.

I went home to start wound care. Now instead of one stitch glitch, I have three! Primordial Ooze is mostly a superficial wound now. I have not named the other two, although Frick and Frack come to mind.

Gathering supplies for wound care...good scissors help!

Here is my daily wound care routine.
  • Collect all of my supplies (gauze, iodized wound packing tape (Iodoform Packing Strip by Curad), Aquacel (similar to silver alginate), gauze, tape, scissors, and tweezers). It is easier if you have everything ready before you begin.
  • Remove the dressing from yesterday and throw it away. Rub off as much sticky tape residue as I can from my stomach.
  • My first wound, which is more healed, gets an application of Polysporin (Neosporin would work just fine also), then gets covered with a strip of Aquacel (or silver alginate).
  • The new holes get a piece of iodized packing strip placed in them with the tweezers. Wounds heal from the inside out, so each day, a little less of the strip fits down into the hole. When the wounds are as healed as the other one, I will just use the Polysporin and Aquacel on them, too.
  • Cover the whole thing with gauze and tape it in place. Done for another day!

I am keeping my appointment on the 29th, just to make sure everything is healing fine. 

When to call the doctor:
Redness, especially if it is increasing
Redness that is warm to the touch
Signs of infection like pus
If you have any other concern with a healing incision or wound.

May 27, 2014
Update:  At my appointment (May 13) , things were healing well. He trimmed tissue and probed around one wound one last time before sending me on my way. I went back two weeks later (May 13), and my doctor said "It is healed. Wait at least 8 weeks more" (before scheduling my last surgery). So, I am still healing, but back in the gym, walking, and trying to figure out what my new normal is. Life after cancer treatment is full of some odd ups and downs, and some unexpected emotions, but I am finding my way through it one step at a time.

More on my reconstructive journey:
Diep Decisions! Diep Flap Reconstruction
Diep Flap Surgery & Recovery - Week 1
Diep Flap Reconstruction Recovery - Week 2
Diep Flap Reconstruction Week 3 - Recovery Can Be Boring
Stitch Glitch! - Diep Flap Reconstruction Week 4