Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year of The Donut

This year will go down in my mind as The Year of The Donut. It's a good way to put a sweeter spin on a year that rather sucked, in many ways, but also had a lot of good and great moments and was full of learning and experiences.

Death and History

In popular culture, of course, there was the fact that we lost many well-respected and loved celebrities in the entertainment business, David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, George Michael, and Carrie Fisher, followed by Debbie Reynolds, among many others. I happened to like Prince, but David Bowie was an important icon in my life, I wrote about that in an earlier post.

It's a weird coincidence that I recently re-connected with my junior high friend on Facebook, the one with whom I went to the David Bowie concert in 1978 in Philadelphia.

Death has been nearby around here too, having said goodbye or in the process of saying goodbye to people who have been important in my life. Death is part of life, as I was telling a friend this morning on the run. We don't get to choose our time to exit this world, not most of us, anyway. But we can be happy when the person gets to choose comfort at the end of their life, because not everyone does. You can have a quality death as part of a quality life.

Donuts Saved Me

One of the things I struggled with this past year was getting back into a running routine, and I have to admit, if it were not for the Donut Friday runs, I wouldn't have gotten any momentum going. I also met new people or got to know several people better from the running community, and that would not have happened if I didn't start attending the Donut runs. Now I am being more consistent, although not running as often as I'd like, I am making progress.

The Dumpers

My friend Emma is training for her first ultra early in 2017 and I'm doing long runs with her. We had a couple of great runs at the bacon strip, I'll share some pics. We have done a 16 mile run and a 20 mile run in the past two weeks out at the Bacon Strip and got to see some interesting sights along the way. Namely, a TV, and a fridge.

The story behind the TV and fridge is that on our first long run, we found the TV that had been dumped on the roadside, it was screen down in the snow, and we turned it upright, there was dirt and grass stuck to the front of it.

We wondered how it got there, and as we ran that day, we fabricated elaborate stories about how it arrived at its dumping place. I guess you could say we found the remote.

Toward the end of our 16 miles that day, we were passed by a pickup truck hauling a fridge in the back of it. We joked about how they should dump the fridge next to the TV so it would be there for the Superbowl. Then all we'd need is some beer and a couch, and maybe a grill.

The next week we headed out there for a 20 miler. As we climbed the first hill, the TV was still there, with some fresh bullet holes! We laughed that it was still out there, no one had picked it up. As we proceeded on our run, we made a turn to do a small 4 mile loop before we went out for our big 10 mile loop.

When we made the turn at 2 miles, we were about the same distance into the road headed west, parallel to the road with the TV on it, and we saw a fridge lying at the roadside, in the snow. We went that way the previous week and there had been no fridge out there, so we're pretty certain that the people we saw driving with the fridge dumped it there, and were probably the same dumpers of the TV.

Trumpocalypse- The Gift That Keeps On Giving

OMG. I am freaking out daily on the Cabinet appointee recommendations coming out of Trump Tower, or from wherever he is making his edicts. I am trying not to think about it and just breathe for now. I am hoping this whole debacle sheds light on the mess that is Washington, and the mess that lies outside of Washington, namely the great masses of the uninformed, misinformed, and generally clueless.

I cannot go into a rant about that, too upsetting. I value the outdoors, the environment, peace, justice and equality and it's countering everything I value. If someone had some common sense, they would create a giant orange wind turbine, because we have a giant windbag about to run the country. Now that would be environmental stewardship.

The Reluctant Entrepreneur

Let me just say when it comes to the commonly accepted ways of doing things, I am not cut out for this business shit. I don't have the burning desire in the pit of my stomach to go balls out (okay, ovaries) and go after money. I am not motivated by the stuff. Especially when it takes me further away from who I am and I have to deal with people I'd rather not deal with, namely, people who are motivated by greed and/or function in that world that expects 24/7 focus on business and money.

It's not that I don't want to make money, I really do want to, but it is not the reason that drives me in what I love to do, and that conflicts with how the world of business operates. I like to do things at my pace, when it appeals to me, and what appeals to me, otherwise, I'm not happy. And I certainly have re-discovered that quality in myself, confirmed it, again. The lessons will be repeated until they are learned.

The online program for Cancer Harbors did not go as planned. And that's fine, you have to try things and they don't always work. I did learn a lot though, from the many people I've talked with and the clients I have. As a result I am redirecting my energies around my project, Cancer Harbors, into the publication of a book this coming year. It's going to be aimed not just at people with cancer, but everyone who has any dealing with cancer and healthcare. Namely, all of us.

Now THAT's something I can get excited about.

Returning to My Creative Roots

I am going to go back to where I feel happiest and most comfortable, which is, where I can write, paint, and create as the ideas come to me. That is where I belong. If you wipe clean the messy slate of all of the "career"-type pursuits: education, business, nursing, and look underneath, dig a little into the dirt and look at my roots, they harbor unlimited creative energy.

I've learned a lot, and I have a great collection of knowledge and skills to share if I allow myself to be creative and unencumbered by day-to-day bullshit that being in the business world dumps on top of you. Getting past the old wounds and traumas and moving forward. I see things differently, I do things differently, and I'm not going to make any more attempts to "fit" anywhere.

I just am. Alene. Gone Bad.

Allowing that energy to come back into my life and relieving myself of the burden of feeling tied to a business model has allowed some great opportunities to come along: a paid writing gig, an opportunity to get my artwork out there again, and putting a workshop together for runners, women runners, that a couple of friends suggested was needed. I will have a separate blogpost about that within the next week, and I'll post a link to allow people to sign up in the right-hand column of the blog. It's in Fort Collins, so you have to be local, or willing to travel to the Fort for it. If it goes well, I'll do more.

And running, dammit.

And did I mention running? I want to get back to doing long runs again. I miss them. Now that I got my ipod to work again, I'm loving the tunes, miles, and fresh air.

Despite Struggle, Gratitude

I am so fortunate to have experienced some great things this past year, my dad's improvement with his cancer, that is in remission now. He does have some other health problems, but he is doing well in terms of being able to stay active and busy and enjoying life. I am also thankful for our little family that has grown over the past two months with Velcro, and Gypsy, the newest member of The Buffalo Family.

I am healthy enough to be increasing the amount of running I'm doing, and have been able to take the time to do the necessary soul-searching to get myself back on track again with what I do with my energy when I'm not running.

Being a Stay-At-Home-Dogmom is pretty damn great.

And I'm thankful for donuts. Even though I can't eat them anymore because I'm trying to bring my cholesterol down again. Last time I quit eating wheat I dropped my cholesterol by 65 points and now it's creeping back up again, probably because I've been indulging in various wheat-containing foods too often. Menopause has a way of messing with every part of your body. Things you would never even imagine are related to hormones are affected. I just take one thing at a time. personal mission statement over the coming year as I write my book and move forward with reclaiming my enjoyment of life again will be something along the lines of fostering creativity, respect, authenticity and empathy and showing people the value of those qualities. Which are sorely missing from many things...

Let's see what 2017 has in store for us. I'm not sure I want to know, but some things like the earth's rotation are unavoidable.

And donuts are round too, sort of like the earth's path around the sun. Donuts revolve around the donut hole, like the earth revolves around the sun.

Even my puppy understands that, along with other concepts in physics, like gravity. She's not an elitist, she just values science and facts more than faith.

Someone needs to tell a certain orange windbag to share these small facts with his Cabinet. They might be small details, but they should prove helpful in 2017.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Longevity: Body, Mind & Spirit in Ultrarunning

This morning I had a conversation with another woman ultrarunner and she asked me the question, "What do you think is your biggest accomplishment, what are most proud of in your running career?"

I would have to say my longevity (33 years of running and still going) and how I've been able to run well, and be satisfied with so many of my performances and enjoy them, all these years, and have set lifetime PRs in every decade: my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. While I am taking an extended break right now and my motivation isn't really there, I still love it and enjoy it and look forward to future runs.

We talked about many things in our conversation, about the sport of ultrarunning and what drives people to do extreme endurance events, and what happens to them, physically, mentally, and spiritually after doing this for so long. Many of the top performers only last for a few short years until their bodies and/or minds give out.

If you're like most people, falling into the middle of the pack to back of the pack runners, you might be aspiring to run longer or faster, accomplish some goal, stay fit, have a social life around running, or prove something to yourself. Running ultraendurance events is a popular activity, much more than it used to be. However, it comes with a price, that can get awfully steep.

I'm not just talking about the cost or entry fees, gear, and travel. I'm talking about the personal cost: the physical, mental, spiritual costs of this sport.

We've seen a lot of people who struggle with addiction and substance use, who have turned to running, people with eating disorders, unresolved psychological injuries, and some people who have exhibitionistic or narcissistic tendencies, where social media is used as a tool.

This is not to point fingers or assign blame. None of us are perfect, and none of us make it through this life unscathed, especially psychologically. I think if most of us took the time to think about it, we could find elements of these behaviors to be more common than not.

The cost of "doing ultras" is much more than people dare to think about or delve into very deeply.

We talked about my strategy for avoiding burnout, and my longtime practice of running a lot of ultras for a few years, followed by time away from hard training. Also, about how I have kept my weight at a higher level than most ultrarunners, not completely by choice, and only very rarely depleted myself of calories.

The only time I have actually done any kind of carb restriction or special "diet" that was high protein and moderate fat, with low carbs, resulted in a dramatic and quick weight loss, quick results in running, but were short-term and resulted in a vitamin deficiency and poor performance soon thereafter.

People are looking for the holy grail, they are looking for ways to set themselves apart from the crowd, they are looking for some sort of satisfaction that is missing from their everyday lives. They think if they follow a strict training regimen, a strict diet, or use the right supplements, equipment, shoes, or coach, that they will reach that nirvana in their simple goals, but it does little to complete their life. It actually takes more away from their lives.

I wrote my running philosophy here: eight years ago. I've done a lot of things in my life, not just in running, in those eight years. I've been meaning to update it, but lately I've been busy with other things. I'm planning to do it, and in this current post, is some of what I'd say.

I have never been able to just focus on running. It throws my other interests off balance, and I miss being a whole person.

I also see what this type of intense focus in mind, body and spirit, on running to the exclusion of most other things, does to many people's mindsets. They feel somehow immune to the realities of being mortal, human, fragile, subject to fate and mishaps and everyday life experiences.

We are so shallow in our culture: we are always looking outside ourselves to feel complete, and we think that when we do things that set us apart, it somehow earns us points, for superiority. We can be as smug as we want to about it, throw the lingo around, or dress according to our own little subculture of activity. However, the forces of nature demand that we come back to equilibrium and the reality is that we are all connected. One person using more resources will eventually affect someone else. And because we engage in certain activities does not make us immune, immortal, or superior.

The spiritual shallowness of feeling apart, feeling disconnected, is hurting us, no matter how much we think running is going to heal us. We ARE all connected. Everything is.

One example, which I've written about before, is when someone who has been living what they believe to be a healthy lifestyle- eating "right", exercising, and doing what they think will protect them from health problems, suddenly is diagnosed with cancer or some other serious or chronic illness. They say, I don't understand, I did this, this, and did I end up with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, fill in the blank.

All that has happened is life itself. Full of unexpected twists, randomness, heredity, or some other vulnerability due to habit, exposure, behavior, or who knows what. It's called being mortal, a human being.

Guess what? There is no holy grail. It's not kale, apple cider vinegar, or juicing, yoga, sensory deprivation, or mindfulness; as delicious or appealing as any of those things might seem to be on their own.

My two cents, advice, recommendation, or just babble, how ever you want to look at it, is this: find the parts of yourself that make you whole. No one is unidimensional. Expand your efforts into those other parts of yourself. There's more to life than obsessing about something as shallow as your own athletic performance, vanity, physical health or nutritional practice. If it takes time away from your training, that's even better.

Ask yourself what gives your life richness, instead of building accomplishments. It's not about building a resume in your t-shirt, hat, or plastic bracelet collection to wear in public.

Ask yourself who you are, rather than what you do or have.

We can all do better and live longer with less. And it might just help someone else who needs more.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dogs Smell Like Popcorn, Let's Keep It That Way

It's been a while since I've posted a good rant. One is overdue.

I have written before about my aversion to things that stink, like perfumes, colognes, and all the other overly scented crap that people put on their bodies trying to smell like a, I'm not sure, anything other than a human being. Note number two, which is exactly how it smells to me...way at the top of the list, of Fifteen random facts about me.

When you come near me, I can smell you. If you're on the trail and you run by, I can smell you then too. You've already fouled my air, albeit temporarily. At least you didn't physically contact me with that crap, and it will eventually dissipate in the wind.

If you want to stink up your own space, that's fine. You probably can't even smell yourself because you've overloaded your scent receptors.

But don't put it on my dog!!

People stink. If they would just allow themselves to smell like human beings without trying to cover something up- what, I'm not sure, but whatever odor comes from body cannot possibly be as offensive or obtrusive as something you buy and put on yourself for the scent.

It drives me absolutely insane when I want to inhale the perfectly intoxicating puppy scent of my little girl, her popcorn scented feet and all, sometimes she smells like maple syrup, sometimes like popcorn, sometimes like dog food farts. But all of these are preferable than the scent of some human who patted her on the head and in doing so, wiped their scent onto my dog's fur, and I can't get rid of it.

If I wanted to smell YOU on my dog, I would send her over to visit you, to take showers with you, while you soap her up and shampoo her with your disgusting fragrances, your deodorants, your dryer sheets, your sprays and lotions and detergents and who knows what else you smear in, on, and around your body and home.

Yesterday I was at the vet and this bozo in front of me checking out at the front desk came over and without asking, started patting Velcro on her head. I could smell the wafting stench when he reached for her and I pulled back. Instead of respecting that I didn't want him to touch her, instead, he moved closer, as if SHE had moved away. "It's okay, I'm just going to pet you, you're so cute."

No, dude. I moved back to keep your foul fragrance off of my dog so she doesn't have to suffer through it and I don't either. We'll both have to deal with that smell until I can find some way to get it off of her. And that shit stinks! The oils in that crap don't come off easily with soap and water, and I don't want to torture my puppy with a bath just so I can breathe!

This guy needs to go back to kindergarten and learn not to touch strange dogs and to keep his hands to himself.

I think I might have to make some kind of a service dog-looking vest with a sign on it that says, please do not touch me without asking my mom if you pass the scent test.

That's another pet peeve of mine (love the pun), when you go to the vet and one of the staff has something stinky on them and it stays on your dog. Fortunately yesterday they were scent-free as far as I could tell.

At the vet it's always a crapshoot. Usually it's one of the vet techs and I need to ask them to please wash their hands because they have some holy hell awful flowery smelling garbage on that lingers for days on your puppy's ears or somewhere, not what you want to smell when you want a face full of puppy.

And I'm not the only one... here and here and here.

My dear friends, I might love you very much and tolerate your fragrance, but I can't take it anymore. If you want to come see Velcro, please, as much as I love you, don't assume I want her to smell like you.

What about you? Do you find some scents offensive and what do you do about it, or do you suffer in silence?

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 Goal: Attained

I did it. I reached my goal for the year this weekend. Dennis photographed it for the record. I can now bite my toenails on each foot. Thought you'd enjoy reading about that. I actually have 10 toenails right now, well, 9.25 to be accurate. There's that one that never will grow back past the cuticle.

That means I have to think about setting some goals for 2017. Right now I am completely absorbed in being a puppy mom. Velcro is 11 weeks old today and next Thursday we'll be bringing Gypsy home. Photos to follow, of course. Velcro is getting so big! She's still a little puppy but she thinks she's a big dog, and she has a BIG personality. She goes for walks and is surprisingly good on the leash. She can be very sweet but she isn't into cuddling for too long. She'll turn into the Tasmanian Devil Dog in seconds.

Other than being a stay at home dog mom (SAHDM), I've been moving forward with my plans to make changes to my service, Cancer Harbors, and to start working on my book. The break has been good for me.

Last night we were able to leave Velcro in the crate to go out to dinner at the Rio and have margaritas. It's going to be a repeat for the next several weeks until Gypsy gets to this point, but it sure felt like a luxury to be able to leave the house and do something for ourselves!

Biting the left side. That took a long time. I was a lot tighter on this side.

I've been doing a lot more trail running, my ankle has been cooperating with no pain. I'm still only running 30 to 40 miles a week but I feel good when I do it, since I'm only running 4 or 5 days a week.

This morning I had to get up and get one of my tires checked because it keeps losing air, so I parked at Discount Tire and went for a run before they opened. The sunrise was awesome. I'll share some pictures here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sticking with Velcro

There is not much running content here, but there is someone new in our lives. We went to pick up Miss Velcro in Ogallala, Nebraska last weekend and she has taken over our lives.

Warning: Many cute puppy pictures will follow. She's cute and sweet, and she also has a diabolical side. She can go from sweet innocent puppy to devil dog in a split second. She's an athlete, already has figured out how to climb and descend the stairs, jump over boxes, play fearlessly with dogs three times her size, and knows how to demand things.

I won't spend a lot of time writing this, just showing you what's new in my life. I did have two consistent weeks of running with 30+ miles per week. And we've been doing the Donut Friday runs, except for during our first snowstorm last week, which we made up for today.

Velcro got to see her first snow, and became the boss in a week's time. Her sister Gypsy will be coming to live with us in another 4 weeks.

And this morning at the Donut 5K predict, I placed third at correctly predicting my 5K time without a timing device. I was only 8 seconds off. I guessed 29:30 and ran 29:38. I won a frozen turkey.

I'll have more to report on soon. I have so much more to say.

Right now I can only do things during puppy naps, so it's hard to complete long tasks. Enjoy the cute puppy pictures. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I am seeking peace with myself. I am trying to live with the fact that Donald Trump will be President.

I have accepted that as a fact, but it's like swallowing poison.

What kind of people have I been sharing this country with?

Someone who lives on my street was remarking on the mild weather we've been having this month, and she added, "Glad we don't have to worry about global warming anymore." She really meant that. She's a Trumpeteer all the way.

I cannot believe WTF I am seeing and hearing about, even though I have done my best to avoid social media and the news. Trump won't live up to his promises and he has a bunch of Neanderthals ready to start in his cabinet. I'm terrified of these same neocons, with the same agenda, recycled from the W administration, same players, same old POWDERs. Pasty old white dudes explaining righteously, except now they are proselytizing too, trying to force their Christianity down my throat.

I'm angry now. I've had a week to digest this news and I have seen enough and heard enough that I'm terrified. We need education, intellectual curiosity and stimulation, not entertainment. Too much dumbing down for too long. Ever since Reagan initiated the dumbing down of America, took away the fairness doctrine, we have been headed downhill and setting too low a bar. Then we got Rush Limbaugh. And Fox News. And CNN. And iPhones. And Facebook. We've created a society of imbeciles.

I'm not being PC but I don't give a fuck anymore. Call it what it is. I'm not going to be nice. A bunch of crazy stupid motherfuckers hijacking the country, the Constitution, after having achieved, over more than a generation, a dumbing down of a nation sufficient to make it acceptable to have a neo-Nazi, white supremacist, woman-hating, Bible thumping bunch of scoundrels responsible for running our government.

There is not too much that pisses me off more than someone telling me this is a Christian nation. I was worried about Mitt Romney four years ago, that he would follow the LDS directives before the Constitution, but I am even more afraid of Pence. He has close ties to the Blackwater CEO and I know these crazy hawks are licking their chops for another war. Repeat Bush Cheney, except worse. And then blame it all on Obama. Seems like the collective memory of the years 2001-2008 are completely gone. Washed away like a Big Mac with a Supersize Coke chaser.

It seems like everyone has forgotten about the war crimes and irresponsibility of the Bush Cheney players like Rumsfeld and Ashcroft and their questionable contracts with the war industry. Here we go again, but this time we have a dictator paired with a holy roller instead of an idiot paired with a sociopath. Bush Cheney on steroids, as if they needed them.

I can't keep quiet and I know these words are inflammatory and vitriolic, but speaking of vitriol, if you feel the need to be the self-appointed guardian of the sacred testicles I have no intention of stopping you. But I would like to continue having my first and fourth amendment rights kept intact...but to these people the second amendment is so important they forget about the others... Maybe they can't count past two?

And healthcare...that's going to be even more fucked up. If you think they've been greedy and shortsighted under Obamacare, just wait. This administration will not be doing ANYTHING to help labor. (unless it involves giving birth to fetuses)

Pretty soon women will all be wearing tattoos of numbers, rating them on a scale of 0-10, as long as they are young enough to be fetal incubators. Once you can no longer incubate fetuses, you no longer matter, because you lack stamina for anything other than being a grandma to the fetuses. And they're gonna need those grandmas after the fetal incubators die by coat hanger.

Yes I'm spouting off a bunch of crap but I'm so pissed, so hurt, so ANGRY!

Hillary was too centrist and too establishment for me. But now they are wasting their time trying to revive the DNC when they ought to gut it and start over with a new, Progressive party, and it pisses me off to see Keith Ellison being fast-tracked, when he'd do better in Congress, and Howard Dean? I used to like him way back when he ran his primary, but now he's been destroyed by his run with the DNC. Let's start from scratch.

All week I've seen people walking around, staggering, stunned, eyes down on the sidewalk, not talking. Quiet in the coffee shops.

I've seen women supporting each other, it's saved me over the past week being with my women friends. But it has to go beyond the platitudes: honor each other, express appreciation, thank Hillary, and wear safety pins.

That won't be enough. We will have to be vigilant, and can no longer afford to get lost in our cell phones and social media distractions.

I didn't like Hillary so much, but I could live with the moderate approach. She would have been a hell of a lot better than taking us back 60 years.

But most of all, I don't understand the lack of empathy. I don't understand these people who can't understand the fear and the feelings that people have. As if it's not OK to have those feelings. I think a lot of people see things that way, can't possibly allow someone to express a feeling that is different from theirs. They can't just be OK with people disagreeing with their point of view and verbalizing it. They have to be right.

That's a consequence of poor education and lack of critical thinking skills, beliefs are more important than facts, the Bible is the only book you need to read.

I'm so glad my life is half over or more, I am so glad I do not have my own human children to worry about going forward. So glad I lack stamina and I'm no longer visible. I worry about my nieces and nephews, their world will require so much more work to fix their pathetic predecessors' legacy.

I don't know what else to say, my brain's been a jumble between sleep deprivation, the grief of this horrible event, on top of my usual state of intermittent brain fog.

It just sucks, and I don't see a way to improve things without risking my life with these concealed carry-toting wackos.

Time to find some POWDER-B-GON.

This really, really sucks. People are stupid. People suck. Maybe only half of them do, but dammit, thanks for fucking up the rest of our lives.

But we can always blame it on Obama, right?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

No Glass Ceilings, Only Blue Sky

The Trumpocalypse happened.

And here we are.

I am trying to type these words without hyperventilating and it's not working very well. Wednesday I was consoling Dennis. Today, I'm a mess.

The night of the election, things started to look a bit unfavorable for Hillary as we approached 9 pm. We went to bed early. We both woke up around 12:30 and decided to check, even though we didn't want to. They had just called the election for Trump.

I was okay on Wednesday. I decided I wasn't going to worry. I decided that if we got through 8 years of Bush Cheney, we can get through 4 years of Trump. I was hanging on to desperate hope.

I ran for 4 1/2 hours today, starting at 8:30 this morning. I had to get out. I went up to Horsetooth Mountain Park and ran the trails, took Southridge and Westridge up to the Towers, down Mill Creek, back up Mill Creek, down Spring Creek to Wathen, up Wathen back to the Rock Repeat route and back down to the trailhead.

It was more like running about 3 hours, with long, 15 or more minute breaks in between whenever I felt myself hyperventilating with anxiety. I was thinking about everything, another existential crisis. Good vertical, not a lot of miles but I took my time. Hopefully I won't be too sore after not doing that much vertical for a while.

I kept wiping the tears from my face, I was a salty mess between the sweat and tears. No blood, fortunately. It's hard to run or even power hike uphill and cry.

I canceled all my appointments today. I just couldn't face it, I was supposed to talk to a breast cancer survivors group tonight and I just didn't have it in me. I couldn't force myself.

After the run I went home, ate some food, then got in touch with Crisann and we went out for a beer at Odell's. It was a beautiful afternoon, sitting there on the outdoor patio, soaking up rays, in mid-November. I had sandals on.

The sunset on the way home was a reminder that another day went by, the sun is still rising and setting.

On one of my run breaks today, I looked at Facebook and one of my friends posted something about glass ceilings. So I commented, "Off the grid, there are no glass ceilings, only blue sky."

I decided I liked the way that sounded.

I'm trying to understand my acquaintances, even some friends, who voted for Trump, knowing they are not hateful people. Trying to understand what was so bad about Hillary Clinton, and knowing she was not my favorite either. I think we need to do away with the electoral college and also the DNC and RNC should be dismantled and the people can form their own new parties, progressive, conservative. Politicians are entrenched, tone-deaf, bought off, corrupt, and only self-interested. But still, how could they support Trump? Was Hillary THAT bad? Was it just total disgust and frustration with the establishment?

If it was, then we had to face it sometime, might as well get it over with now. We do need reform, but having all Republicans taking the country down paths that don't serve the people well, is my big fear. They could seriously set us back a long way. Maybe we need to let the Republicans run things, let them show us if they can be reasonable, if they can run things, if they can lead. Let's see it. But...

We need to be concerned about more than the second amendment- the first, fourth, fourteenth, and all of them, dammit.

And most of all, when empathy is missing, that's what I don't understand.

Best thing I think each of us can do is to talk with someone who voted differently from the way you did, listen to them, don't judge, try to understand their point of view. You don't have to agree with them.

Just have empathy. We need peace. But we don't need silence and fear. Remember their life experiences have played an important role in shaping their point of view. But when you cannot empathize with another person's experience, there's trouble.

Here's an example.

When the story broke about Trump on the Access Hollywood bus with Billy Bush, the "grab 'em by the pussy" story- that was a glimpse into a sexual predator's mind. That kind of abuse, and yes, it IS abuse, is what so many women have been subject to for all these years. And it is a crime.

I really thought, at that moment, there was no way any woman could vote for him. I was wrong.

"Smile" "Loosen up" "Get over it" and the idea that a man is entitled to force himself on a woman, or anyone else, is the same kind of crap that we've dealt with for years, women of my generation, street harassment, feeling like you're being undressed by someone's eyes as you walk by, having to listen to rude and lewd remarks, wishing I were in a burqa just for that moment to hide myself from their leering eyes.

Do you know how many women have been subject to some kind of sexual assault in their lives- whether it's groping, touching, verbal assault, outright rape? Do you know how many women have feared for their safety or been threatened with sexual assault?

Most of us, if I count all the women I know. It's not okay. It doesn't go with the territory. And it's not a man's birthright to harass or assault women.

People must not realize how traumatic that is for women, or the extent of re-traumatization that occurred when that story broke. Or maybe they just don't have empathy.

I don't need to go into any more stories or details here. There are enough examples from what we've seen during the 18 months of hell of this election, and I am sure there are plenty more that haven't come out yet.

Personally, I don't like Hillary all that much, but I didn't think Bernie was going to win if it was him. Though I know Hillary would have made a great President, had she been supported by at least the Senate. Even if Trump doesn't last the four years, Mike Pence scares the hell out of me. So does Paul Ryan. So do Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani and Ben Carson and Michael Flynn and whoever the damn hell else he is going to have on his Cabinet. Peepol R stoopide.

People are upset. I have seen some ugly discussions on Facebook and I've had people try to pick a fight with me. I don't fall for it.

I am worried about healthcare. I am worried about what will happen to immigrants, what will happen to people who are not white, straight, men, Christians, wealthy, and willing to be silent and compliant. I am worried about hate. I am worried about young women's reproductive health and options.

Being on the "wrong side" of most of those categories, I worry about those who cannot "pass" as I can. Those who don't have privilege that I have as a result. I am afraid that the ugliness we saw from the extremists covered by the media will become more prevalent. I am hoping it was the media stirring things up for a story because that is what they do, but that most people are not that way. I don't think they are.

What I think is that people are lazy, ignorant, and don't think very deeply about anything. I think they are fearful as a result, and I think they are shallow and distracted and have allowed themselves to become that way because it hurts too much to think about what our lives are like, and it hurts even more to think about how they could be if we made the effort. It would be a hell of an effort at this point. But still possible.

I think this is true for both Democrats and Republicans, and across all of the possible categories you could think to label someone.

There's always the possibility of a meteor. Talk about shattering a glass ceiling...

I'm trying to be positive here, but I'm not very successful.

WTF, tomorrow is Donut Friday and I need to get up early.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Girl Named Velcro, and Random Thoughts

I have puppy brain! We are announcing the arrival of the newest member of our family, Miss Velcro. She is a red tri and she was born 5 weeks ago. We will be bringing her home in another 3 weeks.

We are so excited! As soon as I saw her picture, I knew she was the one. It was love at first sight. I could not stop thinking about her, and as things unfolded with the litters at Sky Blue Aussies, she was available. We have our eye on another pup who is only 3 days old as of today, so I will fill you in as soon as we know everything is certain with our second puppy. Velcro will have a sister, and most likely she will be coming home a month after Velcro.

Running is minimal but more consistent. I'll talk about that below, after I get the shitstorm off my chest.

Recent Random Thoughts

I haven't been writing on my blog much, it's been hard with all the distractions, between puppy brain and it being Pinktober, the month where cancer and pink become intertwined and there are a lot of things going on. I spoke 3 times in one week, and I have more coming up before the month is through.

I had somewhat of an "aha" moment yesterday when I was thinking about my struggles with getting my program off the ground. It's a challenge to get people to want to do something. Everyone I talk to about it, including healthcare providers, sees the obvious and intense need for this type of education for patients and their caregivers. But there are a lot of barriers to people being able to use it in the way it is intended. I've been barking up the wrong tree trying to get it through the traditional healthcare channels.

One thing I am doing, that should help, is writing a book, which will not only have the program in it, but will also discuss why everyone needs to be in on this. Healthcare is so screwed up and it's only getting worse. Absolutely unsustainable. Yet cancer is about to overtake heart disease as the number one killer of Americans, and our healthcare costs are rising at an insane rate, and our health outcomes and general public health are getting worse. We have more obesity and diabetes, more lifestyle-related illness, and our administrative costs of running the healthcare system are exceeding our ability to put our resources into patient care and education.

Healthcare Heretic Again

I am being the healthcare heretic again, and working to make nurse groups aware of a documentary film project. Health 3.0 is a concept that goes beyond this transactional model, we call it 2.0, of healthcare where physicians or providers don't have relationships with patients, instead they are more of a factory, cranking patients through appointments in 15 minute intervals. Check this out for an example.

This short video is being mild about it. What I wish I had time to say is that all of these cancer centers and freestanding emergency rooms popping up everywhere are only being built because the current system incentivizes it. The hospitals get paid more. They can get reimbursed at a higher rate for emergency room visits and can charge a facility fee for setting foot in a cancer center, rather than an independent oncology practice. This disincentivizes patients from visiting their oncologists for follow-up visits. The hospitals can charge up to $400 for a facility fee alone (not including the doctor's bill) just for having an appointment in a room at the cancer center.

Had I realized just how slimy this whole process was, I would never have supported the local facility as I did half a decade ago. The Big Heist is right. It is a heist, to the tune of 20% of our GDP. Not acceptable. But people need to wake up and get off their obesified butts!

Remember how when we were talking about the need for the Affordable Care Act just a decade ago, lamenting the overuse of emergency rooms because people didn't have insurance for primary care and preventive medicine? Well, now we have high deductible plans again, with rates rising, driving people out of the market, but hospital executives can clean up on higher reimbursements and facility fees. And we're not doing a better job for patients. Dumb and dumber.

Here we are again. The vicious cycle of healthcare, now has consumed independent physician practices, has doctors all working as part of the giant healthcare factory, working at the whim of their employers, being told what to do by insurance companies, and nurses are understaffed and miserable again, physician suicide rates are rising, and nurses are leaving the profession because of burnout and injuries from overwork. There's no nursing shortage, just a shortage of nurses willing to put up with the abuse.

And the people who wrote the ACA: lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry, hospital executives, and insurance companies, have ensured they will rake in big bucks while starving the masses.

General Random Thoughts about Running

I've been running about 4 days a week on the average. About 6 or 7 miles each time.
I know!!!

It feels good to run when I feel like it and I feel refreshed afterward. My friend Emma is training for her first ultra, so doing long runs with her has gotten me out on the trails. I'm so enjoying this.

I miss my hair color. I now have a streak of reddish brown in the front of my scalp. It's a deep brown with a reddish tint, but it's my natural color. People pay a lot of money to get their hair tinted to that color. Now I have just a streak of it to contrast with my grayish white. What are you gonna do?

I refuse to dye my hair. I am getting too many thumbs up when I run, and I need that for the motivation. Plus it keeps the creepos quiet. Nobody catcalls their grandma. Much preferred this way.

Oh, and one more thing- one day I was actually able to reach my mouth with the toes on my left foot. I haven't been able to do it again, must have been a good flexibility day. I'll keep working on it until I can do it consistently. Then I will post pictures.

photo credit: Donna Rohde, Sky Blue Aussies

Sunday, October 9, 2016

DoNut Hunting...

This morning was the Fort Collins Running Club Tortoise & Hare 4K at Rolland Moore Park. Team Donut Hunters showed up in full force, pith helmets, donut hunting license, and all. This is about my speed these days.

It is really nice to get out in the morning and do a few miles, and not feel obsessive about doing double digits in miles or hours of running! This morning was amazing with the running club though- it used to be we'd have a dozen runners show up at these things. This morning there were over 150 runners! There was even a backup at the finish line! It was a gorgeous fall morning, the leaves are bright, the air is crisp and cool without being too cold.

One thing I was really pleased about was that I ran a faster than usual, but relaxed pace, didn't push it, and felt good the whole way. Ended up averaging 9 minute miles. Didn't know I could do that. I have lost a couple pounds, maybe even more than that. I've been trying to be good, cut out the beer and margaritas for the most part, and just the other day I had my first donut in a while.

I'm still going to work on dropping the rest of this weight because I'm pretty uncomfortable and my clothes are still tight.

The big exciting news is that our new babies could be born any day. We are waiting for word from the breeder in Nebraska to find out if there are any red or black tri girls in the litter due tomorrow, and there is another litter due in two weeks. It's the same blue merle dad for both litters, and both moms are red tris. I'll let you know as soon as I know. We will be able to bring the puppies home at 8 weeks, so we're looking at sometime before Christmas, if all goes well.

I am definitely in mom mode, I was shopping for puppy things yesterday, looking for agility equipment, baby gates, thinking about what we will do with training them- making my home schooling lesson plan, etc. My friend Joanne just got a puppy about a month ago and he was at the T & H this morning, her husband was watching him while Joanne ran. He is adorable, and he'll be more than twice the size of our girls when he grows up.

I even had a dream the other night that I was giving birth!! That's really weird.

I have been stretching consistently in the mornings, and been somewhat consistent doing my core exercises and hip exercises, and some weightlifting. I got my DEXA scan results back and the only thing they found was very mild osteopenia in my lower lumbar spine, which is probably not all that unusual and is unsurprising to me. I'll just continue doing what I've been doing, maybe more lifting and making sure I stay on top of the vitamin D, thyroid etc. I won't be able to get re-scanned for a couple of years at least, and the first few years of menopause tend to be the worst for losing bone, so I'll be curious to see what happens.

I am still missing my mouth with my toes on the left side, a couple of inches to go with my flexibility goal. I can easily bite my big toenail on the right side.

I've been busy doing local speaking engagements and preparing for tweetchats and an international online summit for breast cancer recovery. I've been so busy I haven't had time to work on the book manuscript but October is a busy month in my line of work. Pinktober.

I'm tired today after a long week and another busy week ahead of me. But I'm feeling generally pretty good, much better than I did in July and August.

I'm busy planning a birthday run this year, too. Yes, another crazy birthday themed run, something to do with donuts. Stay tuned!

Donut Birthday Run

Alene's 53rd birthday donut run (56K or 35 miles)

Donut Triangle Course 35 miles
Saturday, March 4, 2017 Start at Dunkin Donuts in Fort Collins at 7 am sharp. Get there early if you want donuts before you start.

Run to Loveland Dunkin Donuts 9.4 miles (approx. 9 am)

Run to Windsor Dunkin Donuts 22 miles (approx. noon)

Run to Fort Collins Dunkin Donuts 35 miles (approx. 4 pm)

Run one segment, part of a segment, or join Alene for the whole Donut! Triangle.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Healthcare Heretic Rants Again...

(Disclaimer: I don't speak for the concept or creators of Healthcare 3.0 but this is a stab at explaining what it might do for nurses, and we need to make sure nurses are included as this idea is fleshed out)

The other day as I was having a conversation over coffee with a local colleague who is a psychotherapist, our conversation shifted to healthcare. There's been a lot of talk about Healthcare 3.0 as an answer to the problems of our current escalating and unsustainable costs that aren't making a dent in our health as a society. As a nurse, I get asked on social media what healthcare 3.0 could do for nurses, who are understaffed, burned out, ready to burn their scrubs and walk out. Let's start at the top.

My colleague said something interesting about people who have executive jobs. Often they think it works for them, but the way they are functioning is not working well. They make a lot of money, they may have status in their communities and workplaces, but they are deeply unhappy. They are unable to connect with the underlying source of their unhappiness. So intently focused on what they think they have to do to maintain their status, money, and power, they can’t face how it affects other people around them: their spouses, children, community, or their own health and well-being.

In healthcare especially, people who have executive jobs often are fostering the climate of creating more work and finding justification for filling positions that contribute little to patient care and outcomes. They are contributing to the problem of the providers’ agony of having to spend more time in front of the computer than they can ever spend talking with their patients.

It’s disruptive to patient health and satisfaction, provider health and satisfaction, public and community health, the economic sustainability of our healthcare system, and our entire national economy as a whole. As healthcare costs have soared along with administrative costs, so has the distress in communities over healthcare access and availability, jobs and security.

We are all connected to the greater community. And when someone is sucking the resources away for their own benefit and not sharing, it hurts everyone.

Look deep into the eyes of a healthcare CEO. It’s been said that CEOs can be ruthless, sociopathic people. You might be able to tell in their eyes if they are truly sociopathic or just in deep denial of what their everyday decisions and actions are doing to those around them.

I believe many, if not most of them, are human beings who have taken to heart the myth that status, power, privilege, and money are what defines a person’s worth, especially for men, and while they might on some level know this is a myth, feel too entrenched in the status quo and fear the discomfort of change, believing that the price they might pay personally and professionally would be too steep.

Eventually they start to pay for it in their own health- mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. They might get sick, be depressed, get divorced. Or they might realize it when a family member has a serious illness.

It takes courage to take risks, to make change. They might think they are more comfortable sustaining their standard of living, with the vacation homes, the disposable income, sending the kids to college without financial strain. Their financial security is well-padded with the promise of a golden parachute.

On the other side of the fence in healthcare are nurses. Near the bottom of the totem pole in the direct patient care hierarchy, nurses do the heavy labor physically and mentally. Expected to function as well as machines, they are given the near impossible expectations of being able to safely care for a number of patients of varying acuities, safely administer medications and other interventions, and document everything that happens all day, with every patient.

Nurses have the most responsibility, the least power and authority, and often are abused, bullied, and disrespected, even by their own peers. They are not included in decisions made at the top of an organization that directly affect their working conditions and may pose a risk to their safety, their patients, and their licenses.

When more work is piled on nurses, if they complain, they are told they are not managing their time well, or can’t multitask. If they complain about unsafe conditions, they can be fired. When things get out of control, or a mistake is made, they are the first to be blamed.

The only reason nurses are in the position we are in today is because we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into a lie. We have never challenged the old guard of dinosaurs who live in the days when nurses couldn’t be married, never questioned the doctor and could only wear white caps, stockings and dresses.

The fact is, today, nurses need to stop making excuses that we can’t make change or speak up because we are powerless and we’ll get fired from the jobs we need. How badly do you need a job that leaves you insulin resistant, overweight, hypertensive, with back pain, foot pain, or headaches. A job that leaves you sleep deprived, grouchy, unable to spend quality time with your family, but spending a day or two each week uncompensated while you recover from your 12 hour endurance shifts?

Just for raising this point I’ve been attacked by nurses who get defensive, usually because, “I have kids. I’m a single mom. My spouse is unable to work, disabled, etc. I’m supporting my parents, my kid is in college, I’m in debt…” and so on.

We all have choices in life, and there are no guarantees! What if you got injured or sick? What if you got fired? What if the hospital burned down? What if you lost your job for some other reason? What would you do? You’d have to find another job, but what if you couldn’t? You would have to come up with some kind of contingency plan, right?

No one is saying you should give up your job and stop supporting your family. What I’m saying is, you shouldn’t have to be abused while you’re trying to do it. You shouldn’t have to fear for your job and be forced to do things that are not safe, that damage your health and well-being and compromise your own ethical standards just to keep your employment. You ARE NOT powerless, you can do something. The fact that people do make excuses for not speaking up is reason enough for making change. There is ALWAYS a way.

Nurses need to quit attacking each other and having turf battles in the workplace, social circles, on social media, and in the community. We are all connected. Again, we’re not powerless, but we need to be more courageous. True leadership moves us forward, is not regressive, and requires courage. We have to be willing to take risks, to put our ideas out there, expose our ideas to the light of day instead of hiding behind private conversations in quiet corners.

If we were allowed to do our real jobs: to advocate for the patient, educate the patient, and navigate so the patient and family could find and access the resources they need, in addition to providing basic but highly skilled nursing care, we’d be able to practice like the professionals we are, not as wait staff on roller skates. We could each be experts on our own patients and bring in specialized, available experts when needed. We’d have time to have conversations with the patient and identify issues so we can collaborate with physicians, who would get the full scoop on what we’ve seen in our assessment and concerns we have about the patient, resulting in better outcomes.

To lead this change, we need share our vision for nursing, establish we want to see, and make it happen, through policy changes, influencing public attitudes and understanding, and working together instead of at odds. Here’s a partial list of some of the things nurses would like to have:
•Safe staffing ratios that are not just marginally safe, that truly allow us to provide GOOD care.
•Time to think about what we are doing instead of rushing from task to task
•Time to collaborate- with nurses, other staff, physicians, managers, administrators
•Time to give attention to patients, to have conversations with them where we can listen
•Time to take breaks, lunches, vacations
•Adequate time to get our work done within the hours of our shift
•Getting paid for all the work we do
•Feeling safe in expressing concerns
•Not being rushed
•Having our needs acknowledged and addressed and met.
•Not facing bullying or disrespect from peers, other providers.
•Having access to decision making input
•Getting feedback
•Being communicated with
•Transparency from the administration in matters pertaining to our own jobs
•Support and time for professional development and growth and education
•Opportunities to lead, advance, contribute, change specialties or positions, or back down, cut or increase our hours when we want to or need to
•The ability to take time off when we are sick without being penalized
•The ability to work at a human pace without being replaced by robots
•The ability to use technology in the workplace that works for the patient’s best interest and supports our ability to do our jobs well, but doesn’t detract from the quality of our work with the patient.

What is leadership? Instead of an entitlement, it should be a privilege that is earned and kept through service to those you are charged with leading. Instead, many executives see themselves as entitled: to high salaries, nice perks, golden parachutes, and all sorts of other protections and padding.

Poor leadership consists of insecurity and fear of losing one’s job, the unwillingness to support others out of fear of exposure of one’s shortcomings. Instead of allowing people to shine, insecure leaders avoid creativity and keep the innovators out.

Toxic leaders poison the entire organization layer by layer. Morale drops, turnover goes up, and patients suffer. It’s not just a trickle-down effect throughout the organization, it’s a full stream raining down on their heads, like a burst sewer pipe upstairs from the hospital cafeteria.

Leading is not proselytizing, it is not enforcing the blind following and worship of a megalomaniac. It is not about overseeing a passive audience of yes men and women, or the intolerance of dissent. It requires independent, critical, and creative thinking that comes together to make improvements.

We need to clearly define what nursing would look like under 3.0. We must have a place at the table, as equals. Nursing is no less important than medicine. What is less important, is all the administration and extra fluff that does not improve relationships around the level of care.

Healthcare 3.0 would bring nurses fully into leadership, to an extent to which we have never been included or taken seriously before. Healthcare 3.0 is an idea that can be implemented and can save us from the impending healthcare Armageddon. There isn’t a single person who won’t be affected.

We need courage, we need everyone with a stake in this to face the fact that we are humans taking care of humans in healthcare. Outcomes matter, but we can’t lose sight of the real human condition that “outcomes” represent.

We cannot exist solely for the sake of constructs like technology, efficiency, or productivity. The relationships must drive these constructs, not the other way around. Those things can happen as a result of doing our one-on-one patient/provider relationships well. Let’s stop making constructs the holy grail and get back to focusing on relationships.

For more information on the Healthcare 3.0 concept, you can read Dave Chase's article here, or you can also watch ZDoggMD's rendition, Lose Yourself, below.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Return to Gunrackistan...A Love Story

"My stonehouse burnt down, nothing obscures the light of the bright moon" -Masahide

Gunnison, Colorado. One of the highest, coldest cities in the U.S. Also one of the most beautiful, and the still pristine way of life- small town, with a culture that is disappearing and barely clinging to its existence. Ranching and recreation are the economy. And then there's Western State College (now Western State Colorado University).

Up the road 30 miles there's a ski town called Crested Butte. Culturally different- progressive, liberal, upscale, hipsterish. The locals refer to Gunnison, downvalley, as Gunrack. Gunnison old timers might have names for the Butte too but I don't know them. Hippie town, maybe.

I lived in both towns back in the 80s and 90s for a brief time, a few years here, a few years there. After college, Crested Butte was a great place to hang out and play, wait tables and run or ride mountain bikes over passes with names like Oh Be Joyful and Block & Tackle, Conundrum Pass and Teocalli Ridge, Gothic and Paonia, Green Lake and Washington Gulch.

Gunnison tourists go hunting for elk. And college girls.

I remember shooing a Chevy Blazer packed with hunters away from the women's cross country team one day as we were walking up the hill to the track for practice. And sitting in a bar on a September day after a long mountain bike ride with my girlfriends, being serenaded by some drunk hunters who wanted to buy the local girls rounds of drinks.

Crested Butte tourists go alpine skiing, telemarking, nordic skiing, ride mountain bikes, and sample the microbrews and upscale establishments.

You'd think a leftwinger like me would want nothing to do with Gunrackistan and it's entrenched cowboy culture, locked into the old days when men didn't know what quiche was and definitely couldn't pronounce it...

Cattle country. You ate meat there, it's what's for dinner.

When I first arrived in the valley I was still a vegetarian. But.

I fell in love with Gunnison anyway. I have never been so in love with a place. Ever, and I doubt ever again.

Crested Butte is a beautiful spot in the world. Towering peaks surround a bowl-like valley, the colors of avalanche chutes filled with green aspen and dark green spruce, and snow chutes remain year-round. Wildflowers and painted Victorians and blue sky with fluffy white clouds and clear air lend a palette of color to the surroundings.

I love that, but Gunnison...

the whole area is something different. Maybe it's the sagebrush.

I thought it would be hard to live in Gunrack after being a Buttian. But it drew me in even tighter. I cried for a month when I left to move to Fort Collins for graduate school in 1989. I wanted to go back so badly. I was fixated on it.

One of the mistakes of my youth was that I thought I wanted to go back and teach there. Then I had a chance, a 2 year temporary contract to fill a sudden vacancy that was offered before I even defended my dissertation. I jumped on it, of course. Except by the first day of my second year, I can remember going to class, and counting how many days were left in the school year.

To put it mildly, it used to be a very backward, regressive type of atmosphere that seems to have changed all too slowly. Back then, there was a palpable fear of and hostility to women, and anyone who might be a little on the progressive side. Newcomers who didn't play the game with the old guard didn't make them too happy.

About 20 years ago the college experimented on the wild side- it hired a woman as president. That was enough to freak the good ole boys out, especially when she brought in a whole slew of new, young faculty many of whom were women and a few of whom were (shhhh!) lesbians. A word that didn't even exist in the lexicon of the good ole boys. They couldn't even say the word. Enough to put a few of the old boys over the edge. Politically it was a difficult time in the state's politics, and being a state school we were subject to whatever happened at the state capitol.

The new President wasn't too supportive of the old boy coaches getting away with the same old crap. Which created a lot of tension.

This was at the same time as Amendment 2 was on the ballot and there was a big political fight going on down on the Front Range. Someone was stomping and kicking the good ole boys in the shins with steel-toed boots, but you'd think the wearer of the boots had indoor plumbing or was gay. Focus on the Family, James Dobson, Bill Perkins, and the Colorado Springs contingent were in their homophobic heyday. (Remember Bob Dole and Family values, this is a Christian nation, and so on...)

Yes, the good ole boys and their minions, wanting me to allow a student to get away with not doing any work and give him a passing grade so he could play football or wrestle or whatever. Stopping me in the hall to ask important, pointed, questions such as, "If you're married, why don't you have the same last name as your husband?" or "Are you a vegetarian?", or "What do you think of Title IX?"

All very relevant to our job descriptions. "Are you in that 'women's group?'" Emphasis as if women was a four letter word that needed to be spoken quietly. (Translation: Do you hang out with lesbians who plan to take over the world from men, replace us from our jobs, emasculate and castrate us?) My office mate was in the exact same boat as I was. She loved it when our fellow faculty members praised us by saying "good girl". Among other things.

Looking back, I see how backward things were even in the 90s. Not only awkward and socially tone deaf, but just twisted and fixated on the threat of feminism, as if their nuts would drop into the toilet and go "Plink-plink!" into the water as they flushed.

I look back at the painful times, but there were many more good times, namely the relationships that came out of that time.

Right here in this building I met my husband. Webster Hall in Gunnison, at a 5K with a pancake breakfast afterward in August of 1986. I won the race for the women that day, too. I think it might have been the first race I ever won.

My friend Heidi and I became friends and running partners. She started out as one of my students, and we ran in the cold predawn mornings together. We are still close friends 20 years later, even though she lives in Arizona now.

And there was the team. The Western State Mountaineers. The athletes on the cross country and distance track teams, so many of whom we stay in touch or have reconnected with, and still see on occasion. Scattered all over the state, we can always count on running into someone from those days every so often.

And then there's Coach.

The reason we were back in Gunnison last weekend was Coach. My husband Dennis, a former cross country and distance runner on the team, was being inducted into the college's Sports Hall of Fame. Coach and another friend of ours from way back, Joe, had nominated him.

Coach is one of a kind. I can't even describe this guy, he has a presence that is larger than anything in the valley. You'd have to meet him to understand. But they definitely broke the mold after they made him and there is no way anyone who has ever been around him or has worked with him can help but be influenced, and inspired by him. ""

I can't say I always got along with him, I didn't. We butted heads A LOT.

Coach and I are very strongheaded people and of course we would butt heads. I don't agree with the way he goes about doing things, but it works for him because the system was designed around him and his needs, they accommodated him and his ways for years, and it dates back to a very old paternalistic time, and he's managed to have his way. And I was a newcomer, not to mention the gender, age and heretical nature of who I am.

But still, I can't help but admit I like the guy, the person he is. It's easier from a distance. But how could you not like him, anyone with that unique of a personality, you really can't help it.

So, the long story is my husband ran for Western State College (now Western State Colorado University) in the early 80s, and was one of the top runners on team, ever. He was national champion in the 3000m steeplechase, set a national record in that event at the time, was one of the top cross country runners, 4th in the national meet, multiple time All-American, and so on.

Pretty awesome accomplishments.
After college he coached as an assistant and then I came on as an assistant coach a couple of years later. That's when Dennis and I actually started dating. I moved to Fort Collins to go to graduate school, and Dennis left to go to Adams State College, the rival college, two hours down the road and over the pass, because Dennis was working on a masters in physical education and the program got cut at Western, but still was offered at Adams. So he went there. Not to mention that Adams State College legendary Coach Joe Vigil was the Olympic coach for distance runners.

Running for Reebok, under Vigil, Dennis improved at cross country and more. He competed and finished extremely well all over the country, in road races and made the US Cross country team and went to France and Italy to compete in the World Championships and other races. That was in 1990, the same year we got married.

Coach was at our wedding. I guess I should have prepared my dad because Coach gave a toast, and my dad was like, "who the hell is this guy??? He sounds like a relic, a dinosaur."

Yes, my dad is a sharp judge of character.

Despite the paternalism, I've always called Coach by his first name. I never was one of his athletes or students, I was one of his assistant coaches, and later we were fellow faculty members.

But I think to him, a woman 30 years younger than him, who was the same age as many of his athletes and that he had seniority over, I sensed there was a slight bristle. Other young faculty members and assistant coaches called him Duane. Maybe it was just my projection. But I felt like it was important to establish my ground, my territory, that I wasn't going to be pushed around like a member of the team.

He never said anything about it, and I know he would have if it was that bothersome to him. But in my mind, he's really Coach.

Anyway, many years later Adams State asked Dennis if he'd run on their team at a masters race, Dennis said yes. Then a week before the race, someone from Western called to ask Dennis to ask if he'd run for the Western Team. He'd already committed to Adams and stuck with it.

After that race, which Adams won, Coach did the finger in your face thing, using his classic relic-like, dinosaur-like, paternalistic I'm the coach and I rule your life voice. Which really upset Dennis.

And they didn't speak to each other for years. As the years went on, many halls of fame with lots of athletes inducted, and Dennis was never asked. People would comment, when is it going to be your turn? Dennis thought as long as Coach was around it wasn't going to happen. Disloyalty was Coach's biggest peeve.

"You can't break with tradition. This is the Western Slope!" he would have said.

So...a few more things happened. Pat Porter, US Olympian, former Adams State runner and Dennis' teammate from the US Cross Country team, was named to another honor several years ago and Dennis and his friend Steve went to the ceremony to see Pat and honor his award and celebrate. A week later, Pat was killed in a plane crash.

Then, Coach was inducted two years ago. I forget what I was doing but I didn't feel like going. I just didn't want to bring any upheaval into my life at that point. I wasn't ready to go over Monarch again and see the valley and be reminded, and I didn't go. Then I found out how many people on the team showed up and was kicking myself.

They did settle things, finally. Coach is getting up there in age, he's dealing with some health issues. He's not physically well, but to see him, he never ages, he never changes, and he doesn't seem to have less energy. Still walks and talks and carries himself the same way, with the same booming confidence of a man who knows he drives things.

He might as well own the town, it could easily be named after him. I know that a future building or major renovation, perhaps the new Mountaineer Bowl, will be named after him. It should be. Hell, the whole county should be.

Except I think the Mountaineer had a heart attack. Must have been all that red meat.

For the induction weekend, it all worked out perfectly. It looks like maybe this new president and athletic director might have better plans and a considerably firmer grip on the world outside Gunnison, having been other places.

Dennis's family came up. At first I didn't want to go to the football game or the president's breakfast or the plaque hanging, but I went to all of them. Some of our old friends and Dennis's old teammates came up. It was a small group but the right energy. There were a lot of people I wish I would have seen, and I wish I would have had more time up there, but the ones I really didn't want to see were not there or didn't come up. Some of them don't even live there anymore. A good thing. New blood is needed, even in Gunrackistan.

One of Dennis' old teammates, a high jumper, was also inducted. That was cool. And one of my former students too! It was a shared celebration, and seeing everyone after so many years added an extra fun dimension to it.

I wasn't ready until now. It was just so hard to go back over Monarch Pass. I don't know why, because we went over Cottonwood Pass to Crested Butte several times since then. I just couldn't deal with Gunnison.

For years I've been thinking I am just so in love with the place that I can't bear the pain of seeing it and knowing that I can't live there. You can't make a living up there unless you have one of the few jobs or are independently wealthy. Otherwise you need to piece together 4 or 5 different jobs to keep afloat. You have to really be addicted to stay. I must not have been. But I'm obviously not fully recovered.

And now Coach is sick and we all know time is limited, and no one is saying what we all know.

It was a combination of one of the most disappointing, painful experiences and one of the most influential places in my life, but I'm forever thankful for it and the chance to immerse myself and completely and totally fall in love with the place, so much that I couldn't even go back for 20 years. Part grudge, part pain, part fear of being sucked into the intoxication and addiction that would limit my opportunities forever.

I am glad I finally went. I faced it, my discomfort, my fear of not being able to handle it, of it being too painful. But it wasn't at all. As much as I love the place and think it's beautiful and peaceful and there's something that awakens a deep place in my heart and spirit, a feeling that I somehow belong there, at least in the natural environment of it...

...politically and personally I don't have enough tongues to replace the ones I would bite off every day, maybe even every hour. I'm not a lizard, can't grow body parts back. But I know that in Gunnison, they have plenty of taxidermists who could probably mount those tongues on a wall somewhere.

Some things never change
I love that it hasn't changed.
The air is clear, the air smells fresh and the sagebrush and pine scent is everywhere.
I'm glad it's still Gunrackistan.
It would be more painful to go back there and see that it had changed.