Thursday, May 27, 2010

Watching out for the Undertoad

un·der·tow –noun
1.the seaward, subsurface flow or draft of water from waves breaking on a beach.
2.any strong current below the surface of a body of water, moving in a direction different from that of the surface current.

Though I never went in the ocean in Turkey or Tajikistan, I am beginning to think the entire trip I was swimming in one.

I had never been so far away from home by myself. It was exciting...exhilerating...even a little scary (is this cab driver really going to take me to my hotel or is he going to take me to his cousin's house and sell me off?) I had hoped that there would be an underlying kindred spirit with the others in the group. After all, not everyone would choose Tajikistan as a vacation spot. I was lucky.

I traveled with a dynamic Harem of 11. One who quietly kept order, a mother figure who had a knack for interjecting the unexpected sexual remark, a feisty traveler whose rule breaking became endearing, a self proclaimed leader, a quietly promiscuous wanderer, the one who seemed so young and taught me so much...and a few others...There was a Counselor (I know as another man in the Harem I should call him the Unic...but it just does not fit)...he was reserved, rich in spirit...always there with an intelligent, thoughtful addition to a conversation. Then there was the know how I love a new crush.

So there we were...playing in the waves = fabulous meals with all the bread, honey and tea you could imagine...inventing games = how to manage 4+ hours on a non paved road with no western toilets and then mastering the squat...staying protected from the elements = how to keep dry with a faulty sunroof in a torrential downpour for more than 5 hours...wanting to play with the other kids on the beach = figuring out how to communicate with our new Tajik friends. There was incessant laughing...we shared sunscreen and snacks and it was glorious...then life stepped in...kind of like when you have your back turned to that big wave and you find yourself getting what my kids call a 'washing machine' ...and taught me a big lesson...

Not only did I ignore the undertow...the warning signs posted all along the beach and what not... but for a moment was bewitched by it and went swimming despite the danger...the next thing I knew, there I sat...on the shore...covered in seaweed...gasping for breath...kicking myself for not remembering all times life taught me about the dreaded Undertoad....Remember in The World According to Garp when Garp's son imagines a dark monster lurking under the waters surface? Well, he was is there...watching and waiting.... What's worse is that for a moment I took on the characteristics of that undertow...sucking the safety from the beach with no regard for the other swimmers. Bleh!

I was able to get the majority of the seaweed untangled and the foul taste of saltwater out of my mouth and I managed to swim safely again...never too far from shore and always checking to make sure I had enough life jackets for everyone... and as you can imagine, it was so much more fun.

I have been searching for a reason, an answer as to why I chose to ignore those signs. In retrospect they were bright and flashing " life guard on duty". What insecurity did I not keep in check that would allow me to be so irresponsible? I hope I will find an answer.

I chose this trip because I knew come spring I would want a new adventure. I knew I would long for the feeling of absolute joy I get when helping others. What I got was lesson in staying true to myself regardless of how much fun it looks like the other kids are having. Good grief, you'd think at 42 I would have that one down.

I won't soon forget that bitter taste of salt bad it stung in my eyes. I won't forget what it felt like to realize I had endangered another...I won't forget to watch out for the Undertoad...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Everything I needed to know (to work the streets) I learned while cleaning Connor's room

I had my oldest son, Connor, when most of my friends were still livin it up at 23...18 years have passed and I sometimes feel a little young to have a freshman at Notre Dame...still, I would not change a thing...This is my baby him like I cannot explain...I could go on and on about what a sweet kid he is. Really, he is...the best kid...I hear you...through a naive mother's eyes, right? Never in trouble with the law...I am not a grandmother (as far as I know)...compassionate beyond belief...smarter than his own good...and this kid spouts ethics like they are about to go out of style and he has a truck full to unload before dawn. Cooler than cool philanthropist...he is the BEST!

He finally packed...and left for the seat of his pants and with a little help...but he did it...Go Irish! ALL that was asked of him before he left...please have your room cleaned up (for the cleaners, mind you) and get rid of anything you don't want me (mom) to find...

Cut to one week after he leaves for college and I go to clean his room. Um, Hello? were you not asked 100 times to make sure there was nothing here you didn't want me to find...???? Oh?! that's tuned that out...hmmm...well, I just spent the entire day (because that is how long it took me to get through it all...9-4) cleaning up the chaos, the trash...candy from at least 2 holidays involving a man with a beard and a dozen or so SoBe bottles (um are these special?)...and let me tell you, I got schooled in what an 18 year old boy likes to look at, talk to, imagine and the 21st century...I am freaking out...I want to share...I need to share...but...sadly, I cannot...I can't even look myself in the mirror, much less ask him to... dammit boys...clean your rooms!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Re-entry and cow bell

Re-entry really kicked my ass over the past 2 weeks. I thank the sweet heavens for throwing me back in the driver’s seat...where I belong.

Since about 8/1...I had been a mess...feeling sorry for myself...frustrated & bitter...I loved being on the road...all my alter egos living out loud...I spent my days taking pictures, basking in 90+ degree sunshine and exploring...I did not want to come home to the minutia of sick mother and all the drama, I was dreading my oldest leaving for college...uncertain if the project I really had been wanting to work on was going to come to fruition (I don't sit still not working the last 3 months or so has been REALLY hard) ...I had fallen and could not get up and as far as I could tell the damn alert doo-hicky was out of batteries...cuz about 2 weeks flew by...yet there I was laying on the floor...clapping like a bat out of hell...and not a freaking medic was in sight...I am not sure you clap with the doo-hickey, but still, you get it…this was overwhelming me…I needed intervention…

Tuesday 'medic' arrives. I spent the better part of that evening sobbing in my cereal (actually it was yummy pasta with fresh picked tomatoes and a lovely buttery chard, but still) to a friend...and boy, did I let it all out…I think I might have even made some shit up...whether I meant it or not...cried my eyes out...must have been a little weird for her...even though she has known me most of my life, our experience has been 180 degrees different...all good for both...but very, very different...well, she handled by validating which was great, and then followed that up with a figurative excerpt from my life story... Chapter: The 9th Year....this involved my father, a leather strap and my bare backside after I called my mom an 'old heifer' and kicked a big hole in the back screen door (never did THAT again).

Between the swift kick in the rear fender she so gave like she'd been doin it for years!...and Connor (my oldest) ACTUALLY leaving for college, just fine and right on project kicking off with incredible momentum…don’t ya know it…last week there was a proverbial knock at the door and there before my very eyes stood the savvy city girl, the ass kickin Annie Oakley-type and Miss Kelly White..all my lovely alter egos were there, dressed for the occasion, mint juleps in hand, ready to 2 step and rustle up some trouble. I even looked like myself again today…

My lesson on this trip was to remember to completely live in the moment…would have made for a lot less bitch and a lot more cow bell that last week

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's a wrap

40 days, 1 unfortunate car incident, no speeding tickets, 13 national parks, 13 states (several more than once), countless crossings of the Continental Divide, officially 8,284 miles...

Funny moments and amazing sights were plentiful our last days of adventuring, but still, I am finding it difficult to write with any notion of a light heart...I, for the most part, was a bitch...complete...ONE HUUn-dred percent (as JBN would say it) our last week of adventuring...and feel kinda bad about that...just a little, though. I lived with boys conversations, boys bodily functions, boys conversations about bodily functions , boys cleanliness (or lack thereof) and boys sense of focus (again, or lack thereof)...for 40 days and nights on the a car...I was a modern day Noah (I am in complete awe of this story, btw! there should be Noah shrines at every roadside attraction to inspire the likes of me) Still every day with a smile I would...short order cook at the campsite...all three meals plus snacks...get the laundry washed...make sure all the water bottles and camelbaks were full...pack hearty snacks for each boy...spray them lovingly with sunscreen...and buy candy at every damn gas station we, when I wasn't so pleasant to be around those last few days I figured they could just put up with it...but deep in my heart...waay down there...I HAD pulled up my hiking boot traps...and had loved it all...even the the constellation I came home with on my middle made of irritated red ant bites...the kids in the back seat...

sidebar: what I would have given for some magic powers....stop time, turn to the back seat...and while the little cherubs sit, smiling with their angelic smiles in suspended time and say... "SHUT THE FUCK UP!...and no you cannot have, do, say, play, one more fucking thing...and look happy when I take the 3000th damn picture, will ya, you ungrateful little shits"...whew! felt good...that was my trucker ego talking...

back to loving it in the back total loss of control as Tom always drove...a bit like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange with the toothpicks and violent movies? That was me having to ride in the passenger seat for 4000+ miles. Someone’s really perverse idea of totally desensitized me of being in control...I drive dammit...always...literally and figuratively...regardless...

I loved it...loved it all, really...REALLY! Loved it! I have more than 6000 photos that have been edited down to a 60 minute slide show (only used about 1/3 of the picures) and I watch a little of it almost everyday...

so many keep asking how it went...and genuinely seem surprised that I smile and say "..SO great!" but it was...I would and will do it again! Even riding in the passenger seat...

I am thinking...Route summer...

so if I had loved it all so much...why on earth did I act like such an evil girl that last week...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Go into the light, children...all are welcome

My last camp out in Canyonlands National Park...I have slipped into my tent...from my pillow there is a dreamy view of steep rocky canyons in the distance...and the moon is almost full...with my nightly International Coffee indulgence, I am deeply involved with a narrative of Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch...early evening dreaming, imagining in a past life that I might have had the good fortune of living the life of Ann Bassett...

sideline: as I see it, this falls right in line with the whole Miss Kelly White thing, admittedly in a wild west...ass kicking..cattle rustling...crack shot sort of way...I have, indeed, developed a bigger than life crush on Robert LeRoy! those Utah boys are killin' me! and really with an alias like Butch...what's not to love?

...anyway...I have been enjoying my quiet time for a good hour...nothing interrupting my fantasy except the crickets and the intermittent dancing of winds through the sage brush (...that really only added to the notion that Mr. Cassidy was riding hard to hang his hat for a spell between jobs and enjoy a good home cooked meal or two). I can hear the boys are just headed back into camp from stargazing...voices getting closer and closer and all of a sudden I hear a door slam....BANG! and an incredibly loud 'AAAAHHHHH!, oh gawd! ...gross... I'll never do that again!" and a lot of sputtering. coughing and stammering. (visualize, if you will, we have this little area to ourselves and we are about 2 campsites away from the restrooms...) The boys go nuts wondering what has happened...I hear gut busting laughter...Tom comes roaring into fantasia is lost to the night...

When one is camping and the need arises to use the facilities at night...and those facilities are only made up of a weatherproof structure and a pit toilet...AND there is no power, it would be prudent to turn your headlamp to the OFF position prior to lifting the lid
The only thing flies like more sh*t is a bright light at night leading them to salvation!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Change of Heart

Not only do I not mind this whole camping thing...if it means I can experience hikes like this...I quite like it!

Like the nameless character on to whom Sam relentlessly pushed his Green Eggs and Ham...camping being my savory dish and my boys embodying Sam with the pestering to camp with them that just wouldn't quit...I must concede "hey, I do like hiking in a canyon...I do like camping under the Banyan...I will explore HooDoos here...I will enjoy an after-hike beer..."

My first solo hike...Lower Calf Creek Falls back to the camp site...3 miles...mostly powder sand...AND...ground squirrels, really cool lizards, several dozen trout in Calf Creek (the trail follows this all the way up the canyon), 16...really 16...humming birds all in a 10 feet radius, 3 separate thunder storms that rivaled a bowling match between Zeus and Hera (including bowling ball hail, golf ball size rain drops and lightening a little too close for comfort), the intoxicating scent of Sage Brush (never mind the havoc it plays on your sinuses), crickets galore...meandering only passed 2 people in the 110 minutes it a word...amazing!

incredible geography, gorgeous cowboys...Utah...I hate to leave you!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bigger is NOT Better

let’s just chat about the good ole DFW, shall we? My encounter here is best described with an animated, ‘…F**K! Are you kidding me???!!!

Try these shit kickers on for size: My 10 year old son's best friend is flying alone for the first time…Seattle to Dallas…joining us on the rest of our adventure…he is MY responsibility! I am staying about 30 minutes from the airport…check online one more time and DAMN! his plane is 20 minutes early…f-ing tailwinds…I bust out of the house…of course, I get on the wrong freeway! Right, what else would I do?! I figure this out 10 minutes down the road and thankfully there is an alternate route…it takes a few more minutes, but I have no choice… Oh, btw, it is 5:30pm…nice! I get to DFW…realize that all the terminals here are completely different buildings…Crap! Finn and I are quite certain we saw Charlie's Alaska flight pass to land…driving, driving… circling again...finally, see the E Terminal signs…by this time Charlie’s plane has been on the ground for 15 minutes… …if you have never been to DFW…it is a cluster f**k! I am panicking…nearly in tears…Finn IS in tears…the thought of Charlie not knowing where we are and not having any way to call, is too much…I am looking around like mad trying to figure out how to get into the goll dern parking garage…I see an opening…I accelerate…feeling a bit of relief I tell Finn ' is going to be fine'.

Not so fast, I notice the 6’4” clearance sign…”6’4”? I am fine,” …BANG! BANG! BANG! Oh crap! the Thule pod on the roof…that makes my car at least 6’8”! and those bangs were the three concrete rafters we hit and I realize the car is stuck…the only thing I can do is back up and hope for the best…needless to say there was no ‘best’. Exciting events ensue...large stranger helps me drag the pod off the car hood and over to the side...leave the pod and all the contents on the gravel near the garage ($1000's of camping equipment...remember I am about to camp for 2.5 weeks)...hope to gawd it is there when we return...pull an OJ through the airport to get to meet Charlie...pacing...waiting...pacing...waiting at baggage claim...10 minute search for the spot we left the pod...tearful phone call to Tom to explain (not sure which was worse the heat, the call...or the frustration of the ignorance it took to pull off such an incident)

lessons learned:
1. when entering a concrete airport parking garage, it would be prudent to remember when one is driving a Yukon with a Thule pod on top
2. the 6'4" height limit sign should be taken literally
3. do not drive 30mph in a 15mph
4. a Thule pod does more damage when hitting the hood of a car moving in reverse than it does to the roof to which it was attached (no more XM for this trip...damn!)
5. Multi colored duct tape and all the stickers you can find along the way on a road trip all make up a f'd up Yukon and Thule rack look pretty sweeeet!~


Zooooom! There went Oklahoma...not much to say about that…we experienced the great state of Oklahoma for all of 36 miles! Got a pic at the state welcome sign…good times! Finn, Teage and I did realize is that we only know this much of the famous song….OOOOOOOOK-lahoma where the winds……dat daa da daa dat da… Mr Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein would have been terribly disappointed!

Sweet Sweet Texas
Pullin’ across the Armstrong County line, balmy and 98…Lyle Lovett on the ipod (Cute as a Bug)…a fresh roadside stand peach in hand…heaven…and it hits me…I am inspired and with the notion that I may have found my hook… you know that feeling when you mind spins…you are so excited about something you find yourself smiling ear to ear…giggling…can’t quit fidgeting? I can’t even write about it without getting all befuddled …well, it was that kind of inspiration! more on this as it develops...

It’s Naught Pruh-nounst Like Tha-ee-ut
I was amused as we pulled into Dumas, Texas (pronounced doo-muss, mind you) for the night to pass a drive-thru liquor store/pawn shop. This was funny to me…but what reeeealy made me chuckle was the ‘XXX Movies and Sundries’ store situated right next door. There are SO many scenarios I imagine with these variables that make me smirk, question and shake my head, I think it best to just leave it out there to ripen…

Ahhh! Freedom of Speech in Texas (on billboards, anyway)
my favorites were:
Satan Sucks: my thoughts…You don’t say?
Jesus Christ is Lord, not a swear word: My thoughts…Geeezus, really? WTF, I am going to say now?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paul Simon on my mind...

4th of July Weekend With the Whole Fam-damily - Incidents
1. MIL navigation can be daunting...a cold beer and a few sparklers can and will put it right into perspective
2. Dress yourself, your spouse, and most importantly your children, appropriately for the holiday, meals, visitors and for that matter the public pool…even if you do this there is an inherent risk being sent back to the suitcase
3. The kitchen does close…if yer hungry, don’t be late
4. Always answer with, ‘…that sounds like a great idea!’ then continue on with whatever you were doing...
5. If your counterpart must leave early, do not...under any circumstances...extend your trip

Road Trippin' Across Oregon & Nevada -Accidents
1. When enjoying a road trip from Oregon to Texas with your 80 year old aunt in 100+ degree weather, remember not to let her consume foods that are known to bring on digestive issues...especially when boys under 11 years of age in the car…and the conversation about appropriate bodily function banter has not occurred (unfortunately the heat was too much for her…we put her on a plane in Salt Lake City and meet her in Dallas)

2. Not many rest stops in Nevada. Moving up in altitude and heat...water consumption hits an all time high: Squatting is an art form…when a girl is rushed nothing good can come of it…I drove a little damp for the next few miles…ick, right?, I know…

Road Trippin' Across Utah - Hints of Allegations
1. Holy ever lovin’ Cowboys, Batman!!! Everywhere you look you can find a cozy little corral on the side of the highway...and there he is, maybe with a buddy...maybe not...practicin' his ropin' while the herd grazes on the hill...or just lazin' in the shade with his trusty horse..I had to stop and visit a spell.

2. This girl is not coming home a Mormon, but, since I am always game for stirrin’ up a little trouble, thought about switchin' it up and bringing home a few more husbands...don’t think Tom will mind….they would all have good paying jobs and look reeeal good all cowboy’d up.
Notable mention: the geography in Utah, specifically the salt flats …a must see for all the cool kats...

Steamboat Springs, Colorado - another accident, by it's very definition is something that could have been avoided
The people, the weather, the lifestyle…all fabulous! Too good to be true??? What is there NOT to love, you ask? The A Hole on the river through town…That’s what is NOT to love! The events of that first day went like this:
Kelly, Finn and Teage decide to tube the river…it is 97 degrees with no breeze, my youngest niece, Adelyn, has to nap and this should just about kill that 2 hours…we walk into town and size up the half dozen or so rental shacks…choose the one nicely snuggled up to the smoothie shop (thinking about how fabulous a cold smoothie will taste after a coupla hours on the river) I pay...and we move on to being fitted with life jackets...within seconds Teage's eyes are welling up with tears...he is afraid to ride alone…teens running the tube rental joint say they did not see any reason it would not be safe for him to ride with me, and offer “…the river is not that high...”. We are schooled with a very quick, and soon to find out, not-so-helpful, description of the river and areas to avoid…Teage is excited again and away we are sent…Immediately after putting in I realize I am not in Kansas anymore and key points are evident: 1. Whether or not the river was high was clearly a matter of opinion and safety is a relative term in Steamboat Springs...they had no idea what they were talking about with regards to either. 2. The equation of Mom +Teage+ one tube + high river + the approaching A hole, is not a good one…and the ending is a clear given… As soon as we get straight in the current we see the churning A Hole ahead...ever go gracefully, we dump, go under, roll around a bit and then endure a 20 minute ordeal stumbling, slipping and scrambling to the bank…revisiting the sub-aquatic world several times along the way…all the while Finn has grabbed onto a low hanging branch and is trying not to slip away down the river alone AND trying with all of his mite not to laugh (not real successful with the that last one)…all happening a short 100 yards from where we put in…the adventure was dashed, but thankfully not all was not lost...Fulfilled was a young boys’ dream to have mom's nod for the rest of the day to proclaim, “…mom was dumped by the A hole!”.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is this a dream?

Why I agreed to road trip from Seattle to Texas and back for the entire month of July...stopping at every damn dam and enormous ball of string...with 3 boys, 5 bikes, all the camping gear we own and a cooler (thank Buddha, we are not bringing the dog!) well, it's beyond me. When it was made known to me that we would be pulling an RV trailer the second half of the trip...fourteen whole nights, mind you...I quickly called my doctor and requested medication. I wish I liked camping. I mean, I like the idea of it...getting back to nature...hiking rugged terrain...being at one with the earth...the sounds of the wild...smores and campfires...all the other people that camp in up the camp site...the dirt...the smell of campfire smoke that just won't quit...the dirt...the freeze dried food...boys in filthy shower...the dirt... ugh!

I could say how I really feel, but instead I am going to pull up my hiking boot straps, pack my propane stove and buck up (for the children's sake) and be a camper...albeit with medication and wine, but a camper nonetheless. That said, I fully intend to visit Hotel Bel-Air promptly upon my return. There I will get lost in the intoxicating scent of jasmine, cleanse my soul with a lovely glass of Duckhorn Merlot and be serenaded by the wonderful Mr. Antonio Castillo de la Gala. Feel free to join me, it will be a little slice of heaven. And truthfully, the thought of it might be the only thing that gets me through the 7000+ miles.

So, not being a writer, you might be asking yourself, "Why is Kelly starting a blog?" or "Geeesh, can't that girl focus on one thing at a time?" all good questions... the answer is this: About 2 years ago I was afforded the opportunity to pitch a show to the executives at Discovery (btw, I know nothing about creating a television show, writing a treatment for a television show, or pitching a television show, but I did it, I know, typical, huh?). It was one of the top 10 experiences of my life, seriously! When the VP of the new channel Planet Green asked what my television background was..."I watch a lot of it" was the reply. To that, they requested a talent tape of me... they had one produced...chewed on it for about 3 months, and had great feedback for me. Ultimately, a travel show was not on the calendar for Planet Green and tweaking it into a lifestyle show just didn't work. They did, however, share my information with other networks and encouraged me to keep at it. This little adventure I am about to embark on will be a rookie stab at this notion...

It was originally billed as Traveling Green with Kelly White. Not to sound vain or anything...but I love the WASPy-ness of that title...(I, not so secretly, wish in another life I was Miss Kelly White from North Carolina....North Cackalacky for you southerners...I can just imagine sippin' a mint julep on the veranda in my best frock, the scent of magnolia blossoms light on the warm breeze, and the faint laughter of the boys down by the pond catchin' fireflies...ahhh!) ...sorry, I got lost there for a second.

Back to the point...first of all, I think that it sounds a bit preachy, like I am going to go on and on about saving the planet and not leaving more than my share of a footprint...blah blah blah...C'mon, I drive a Yukon, kind of compost, take baths every night in a HUGE tub, I mostly recycle...really, this girl is bright grassy green and happy... AND that is not really what I intended, it just sounded so damn good. Wait, that sounds bad...I am all for saving the planet...I do recycle and compost and try to lighten my impact, but I am also realistic and honest. So I don't want to hear any stabbing comments about how lame I am, I do a lot of other things to help! So, with not much thought, I am giving a shot at Diary of an Ardent Adventurer...sounds okay, doesn't it? Not sure if I throw it at a wall it will stick...but what the heck! I can BS with the best of 'em...have smoke and mirrors down to an art form...and really do think I can do anything (except punctuate properly) well, as long as I am talking to people I don't know...preferably men. ...I just might pull this off...ha!