Off-roading on the Chevro-legs

Spring has sprung and school is out! I’m taking full advantage of the sunshine and embarking on some exploration in the great outdoors. So far I’m keeping my hikes in the 4-5mile, round trip, length. The goal is to be doing 10-12 mile hikes by the end of the summer and into the beginning of fall. (The combo of elevation with incline/decline factor means that conditioning is a must! At the moment every being in a 5mile radius can hear me huffing and puffing my way up the trail :D)

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The great thing about Cedar is the abundance of hikes within a 40min radius. From hikes with views over the city, less than 5 miles from my apartment….

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Looking over Cedar City from Thor’s Hideout trail

To beautiful slot canyons just 30 min away. (My first slot canyon experience was amazing!)

While 2 of the “Mighty 5” parks are both under 2 hours away, summer in the parks is packed. Rather than contribute to the carrying-capacity problems within the national parks, I’m looking forward to having a great time exploring BLM, state park, wilderness areas, and more!

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It feels good to be lost in the right direction!

– Author Unknown

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I Said “I do”…

Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.” – Jaime Lyn Beatty

 

February 2018: the following was posted on my Facebook page and resulted in some comments that showcase how well my friends know me (and relate to me).

Insert a series of epic adventures. Flash forward to August 2018 when I was brought on as an emergency hire at Southern Utah University, on a 9 month temporary contract.

“Oh the places you’ll go.” – Dr Seuss

It is pretty safe to say that immediately connected with Southern Utah (see pics for proof of amazingness). Life in a college town fits me. The small town environment, relaxed and family friendly atmosphere, set in the middle of the mountains and close to so many national parks and outdoor activity, all make life low-stress and makes for a happy me!

I struggled with finding myself after my PhD. I read an article recently by Kristen Burton that highlighted to me that my use of #findingmyselfpostphd wasn’t just a ‘me’ issue, rather something that is felt by other post-docs.

I turned down two tenure track positions before taking the temporary position at SUU. In both instances it just didn’t feel right and, as a professor said, tenure track positions are like a marriage, you want to make sure you commit to the right one because it is a commitment. I accepted the temporary position at SUU because not only was I impressed by the leadership of the Department Chair, but I connected to the genuineness and sincerity that I felt via phone calls and emails. Everything that happened in the transition period from WA to UT and everything that transpired within my first semester teaching, further solidified, in my mind and soul, that I’d made the right decision. It became very apparent to me early on that I wanted, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to stay and make a home for myself in Southern Utah.

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. – Christian Morgenstern

I’ve been pretty lucky to live in some awesome places and meet some awesome people. Everyone has asked me “How do you like Utah?” The truth is that I love it. I feel at home in my job, the community, and my crossfit box (which btw, as seen in above book-of-face posts was a key concern!). So when the opportunity came to apply for the tenure track position at SUU, I applied and then held my breath (there was always a small chance that some super-star could apply and get the job!). I did go on a job interview elsewhere…I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t the right fit (very nice place and people but just not a good fit for me). The whole ordeal was the most stressful couple weeks ever. So the day that I finalized negotiations on my position at SUU and walked outside…I stopped and looked up at the mountains and felt utterly content in the deepest part of my soul (I probably also cried #shocker).

Due to bureaucracy, and my own paranoia that something would be snatched away from me (b/c academia…), I have waited to make a formal announcement.

So, in case you haven’t figured it out already, it is with great joy and happiness (and relief) to formally announce that after searching for my ‘significant-other match’ in terms of university, community, and location…

I said “I do” to Southern Utah!

My dad wrote me a note that resonated deeply with me, in which he stated “The closing of your life as an official college student has finished. Finding a place to live and work where you “fit” and are “happy” has appeared. A new beginning of another phase of your life is here.” (My father is a very wise man)

As Kristen Burton wrote “I am not my degree, and neither are you. Knowledge and education can shape us in powerful ways, but in the end it is up to us to chart our own paths and remain our own advocates. Only time will tell what challenges come next.”

So, if anyone asks…this Florida girl has found her way back West. I’ve found a place to call home, a place to find who I am as a person in this next chapter of my life.

…I’m really pretty effin’ excited about it too!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams” – Oprah Winfrey

Bryce Canyon National Park

Winter wonderland in Bryce Canyon NP

 

Cool times in Kanab

3 day weekend…hot air balloon festival paired with a “battle of the bands”…sign me up!

Seeing hot air balloons in flight has been a bucket list item for me so when I heard about the Balloons and Tunes Festival in Kanab, Utah, I was all in. I will admit that deep down I was secretly was hoping to see the Wizard and catch a ride back to Oz…(this is normal right?!)

Sadly, the weather was just not cooperative for any launches to occur. Not to be disheartened by this unfortunate occurrence…the show went on and a great time was still had.

Being that it was a festival, food was consumed!

  • My heart melted when I saw the Havana Cabana, a Cuban sandwich and a cafecito were ordered. The combination spoke to my soul, taking me momentarily back to S.Florida i.e. home. It was amazing.
  • Breakfast was at Peekaboo Woodfire Grill: a great spot for vegans and vegetarians as the menu has multiple selections that are v/v friendly – a friend ate the Huevos Rancheros and said it was tasty. I had the Cinnamon French Toast, which sadly didn’t live up to my expectations.
  • Dinner was at the Iron Horse Restaurant. The establishment is a tasteful and fun recreation of the Old West – right down to a mock village perfect for an Instagram-able photo shoot. The menu is complete with custom cocktails, brisket sandwiches, fried okra, BBQ Chili Cheese Fries and more. A must experience for those visiting the area. The service was excellent and the food was delightful.

The weather was chilly, to say the least, however there were a couple options to help keep from freezing: 1) Hot chocolate 2) Cafecito 3) Dancing to the music played by 12+ bands battling for top spot in “Battle of the Bands” 4) Space heaters strategically placed in the vendor area and 5) Balloon Glow.

What is the Balloon Glow you may ask? Think giant flame throwers perched atop a basket…VOILA! The balloon operators set up on Main Street and light up the street with light, and heat. A magnificent showing of flames and the warm, warm heat that is given off (delightful to be sure)! I got super lucky and was able to get in a basket and pull the levers to make the flames go SWOOSHHH! It was epic – many thanks to the operator for Redneck Cowboy balloon out of New Mexico for allowing folks in the basket for this cool experience. Also, his pilot in training is my new heroine (she is 12 and super awesome).

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Following the Balloon Glow another memorable event occurred. The Lantern Festival.

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Open the lantern, light the base on the tiki torch (or a lighter should you have one handy), wait for the heat to fill the lantern and as it is ready to take off, make a wish and set it free. To see all the lanterns floating up into the sky was nothing short of magical.

While I wasn’t able to live my dream of seeing multiple hot air balloons floating, like brilliant petals in the clouds, I did get to watch Smokey the Hot Air Balloon Bear be inflated and staged on the ground. It was pretty neat to have a ground perspective of the size of the balloon to basket, and the backdrop against the snow dusted red rock was stunning.

Would I go back next year? I’m not sure. I think my next attempt at checking off this bucket list item will be the “Mother of All Hot Air Balloon Festivals” in Albuquerque, NM. Will I go back to Kanab? Absolutely. While the weather wasn’t cooperative for the balloons to launch, the event was well run and everyone was super friendly. A major kudos to the organizers for making great use of text message to communicate the event schedule.

Kanab is absolutely picturesque and charming. I do think my next trip will be when it is a tad warmer as there are some hiking trails that I have my eye on tackling.

As John Steinbeck said “People don’t take trips, trips take people.”

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From One Year to the Next

Re-Capping 2018

2018 was a pretty eventful year. Looking at back at my goals, I was pleased to see what I accomplished.

  • Goal: Finish my PhD – Spring 2018 – even if it damn near kills me
    •  Follow up: I am actually happy to say that I did finish my PhD and in exactly 4 years. It almost did kill me and would say that I’m still recovering from the past 4 years.
  • Goal: Secure a job in academia for a Fall 2018 start
    • Follow up: I did secure an academic position (albeit a temp one) and I love it!
  • Goal: Stay strong
    • Follow up: I managed to not end up on medication, lost about 30 pounds, the anxiety attacks are decreasing, I randomly cry less, and have not completely lost my marbles or been committed.
  • Goal: Don’t be a disappointment
    • Follow up: Graduated on-time and have a job supporting myself – I think this qualifies as not being a disappointment.
  • Goal: No matter what, no matter where – don’t forget to find the positive and always keep a smile
    • Follow up: I’ve done a pretty good job of not losing my smile or sense of humor and finding the positive in the many interesting life occurrences.

A few of my fav photos from 2018 – it was one heck of a year!

Moving into 2019 (in no particular order)

  • Turn 2-3 articles into publications
  • Drop another 20 pounds and be at a socially acceptable weight by my birthday (April)
  • Be open to relationships (be it dating or new friendships)
  • Don’t be afraid to step outside my social comfort zone (I’ve joined an indoor volleyball league, I consider this a baby step)
  • Secure a tenure track position in a place where I want to set down roots
  • Get involved with a dog rescue organization
  • Not only tell my friends and family how much I love and appreciate them, but show them
  • Professional development – be a better professor and scholar
  • Be kinder to myself
  • Judge less, Accept more
  • Put positive thoughts into the universe and announce my gratefulness daily

All in all I deem 2018 successful. I learned a lot about myself. I have a deeper appreciation for my tribe. For all that has happened this past year, the good – the bad – the amazing moments – the moments I could do without, I think I can say that I’m more at peace with myself and the world around me. I’m more content and happy from within, something that I couldn’t say in 2017 or even portions of 2018. Growth manifests itself in many ways – for me it has been a long journey. A journey that propelled me to get a PhD and the adventures that followed. That chapter of my life is over (hallelujah!). Now I move forward, make new memories, have new adventures, and find out who I am post-PhD. A door has closed. I’m excited to see what doors will open and what lays on the other side. I’m looking forward to the adventures that 2019 brings.

”Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure”

– Bob Bitchin

Reflections: Viewing Cancer from the Outer Rings

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

Just over a year ago my amazing little mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was pretty hard to process. For the obvious reasons as well as this being the second go-round with cancer – the first being approximately 6 years prior when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

While the cancer and treatment hasn’t been a secret (hard to hide a tiny bald-headed lady who previously had a full head of jet black hair) it also hasn’t really been something that I’ve discussed on social media. It has been a journey, not just for my mom but for the family. Yes, my mom was the one having to deal with the chemo, the hair loss, the major life changing decisions associated with treatments, the radiation, the side effects, etc but as a family we each dealt with our own emotions of watching her go through all of this, both singularly and together. For me it was trying to make sure that I was there to support both Mom and Dad, in whatever that looked like.

I dealt with it everything happening by not dealing with it until I was just emotionally overwhelmed (commence meltdown wherever I happened to be. Question: why do the meltdowns always happen at the grocery store or while driving? Not cool!).

At the core of it all, I was angry, sad, guilty and amazed (in any given combination and order of occurrence).

  • Angry that the most amazing human ever, who lives the healthiest lifestyle ever, had to go through all of this not once but twice. There were so many statements I made to the Universe, most of them not worth repeating, but the general tone was pissed.
  • Sad that there wasn’t more that I could do to help. Sad that Mom had to handle all of the nonsense that goes with doctors visits, insurance, and dealing with stupid people while dealing with treatments, side effects, etc.
  • Guilty that I wasn’t doing enough to help and that I wasn’t there more. Guilty that I was so immersed in my PhD that I blocked out everything else around me which led to guilt that I felt guilty – because that seemed so selfish when I wasn’t the one going through the really tuff stuff.
  • Amazed at the strength of my parents, the support from friends and family, and the kindness of strangers.

I wasn’t around for Cancer Round 1 (probably part of the guilt) but I was around for Cancer Round 2 (which is going to be the last round!). Here is what I took out of all of it:

  • As a family, we are strong: The strength is cemented together with unwavering leadership and love from my father and faith in the Universe that we will be taken care of.
  • Focus on the positive: Dwelling in the negative is not productive. Going down that rabbit hole does no one any good and can only breed more hysteria. Been there and it wasn’t fun. Be positive, see positive, find something to be positive about. Thoughts have power – think happy thoughts!

“Promise me that you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” – A.A. Milne

  • Laughter and love are the cornerstone of making it through tough times: The jokes made in our household (many times started by my mother) are a bit irreverent but it feels so much better to laugh than to wallow in the misery of what is happening.
Mom

My lovely little momma

  • Accept that which you can’t change and make your way through it: When Mom lost her hair there were a lot statements such as “O you are so brave”. She just shrugged and gracefully said “thank you”. We never thought about it as being ‘brave’, it was more that this was the ‘new normal’ and forward march. (BTW: Mom totally ROCKED the bald head and you better believe the jokes were flying around the house!)

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  • Love and live to the fullest: Say ‘I love you’ – give that hug – do that thing you wanted to do with the person you love – (except when your mother wants to walk the bridge twice and you know she isn’t in as great a physical shape as she thinks she is, cuz chemo, then you say no! #truestory) – cherish every moment – have the meltdown and find something in the day to be grateful for.

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” – Tecumseh

So why this post? After chemo, surgery, and radiation…today marks THE LAST DAY of radiation treatment! 33 treatment completed! In the celebration…

(Trust me at home there is a celebration! In typical family style it will be complete with laughter and some meltdowns across the board. As I work on this post, my sister is in Publix buying flowers and balloons and adding some extra waterworks to the floral department (the dude working floral was not ready for work today #justsayin)…I shut the door to my office so that some poor student doesn’t walk in on my meltdown. #cleanuponaisletwo)

…there is also a reflection of some of the things that has occurred over the past year. In sharing some of it, from my perspective, there is closure. However, I can confidently say the entire family is happy to pen an end to this particular adventure!

“Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong, and get enough rest. You can’t do it all, but you can do your best” – Unknown

My parents are my heroes. My mother is truly the most amazing person – she has handled this past year with a strength, dignity, sense of humor, and selflessness that I can’t even fathom. She radiates (haha) sunshine even on the darkest days and is resilient beyond measure. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

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I came across the following that I think sums things up nicely:

“The real [person] smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”

– Thomas Paine

Trotting Around UT/AZ

Thanksgiving this year was one for the memory books. My amazing friend came to visit me from Seattle (my very 1st visitor since moving to Utah and a super special visitor at that!). Wanting to make sure I got 5 stars on ‘FriendAdvisor’ as a host, I made sure to line up a Thanksgiving that would be memorable and delightful…I think I succeeded!

We stayed at a great little cabin, via AirBnB, between Colorado City and Fredonia. Don and Cindy at the Coral Pink Ranch were amazing hosts! Our cabin was a former one-room school house that had been converted into a cabin, with every detail accounted for. The property was great with views of the red rocks, a hot tub, fire pit (complete with firewood and fire starter) and even a little kitty host (her name is Ocean and she is a darling). The property is off-grid, run by solar power and gas. There is no cell phone service and the wifi is a bit rough – i.e. put the devices away and enjoy being unplugged! The cabin is equipped with a two burner stove and gas grill (no microwave as the wattage is too high) and all the amenities needed for a comfortable stay. There were even farm fresh eggs in the fridge! Our hosts were super knowledgeable and offered some suggestions on getting to Zion National Park – with a highway route or a ‘scenic’ route (that was technically shorter in mileage).

We took the road less traveled, because that is what we do.

(I will painfully admit that the first 3 miles were ROUGH and I mayyyy have considered aborting the mission – but my parents didn’t raise a quitter and I would have NEVER lived that down – so onward explorers!).

100% – ABSOLUTELY – COMPLETELY – MOST AWESOMELY WORTH IT!

By less traveled I mean REALLY less traveled…think beyond gravel roads to “unimproved roads” i.e. the most basic dirt road EVER! The views were STUNNING and absolutely worth the drive.

Note: If you do not have 4-wheel drive or a small SUV this route is not advised. Also, have a co-pilot to take pictures and let you know when to look up and admire the SPECTACULAR views. I wasn’t able to grab pics at the truly spectacular spots, as I was very focused on keeping us on the road without destroying the underside of my vehicle or putting us over a ravine – honestly the latter wasn’t my concern but my co-pilot made some pointed remarks about it (?). He captured some amazing photos that I’ve requested in print form because WOW!

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From the cabin – UT 59 towards Colorado City, to Main Street which turns into S. Bench Road which turns into another road, which then leads to 250 S where you can go to Grafton (a super cool ghost town) or to Rockville which leads to Zion National Park.

David really wanted to see a ghost-town, so that was stop 1.

Stop 2 was Zion National Park. I happily got to add another stamp in my NPS passport. We took the bus loop around the park and enjoyed the views.

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It wasn’t a particularly great day to hike so we enjoyed a picnic lunch before taking the highway route back to the cabin – where steaks and asparagus were grilled, wine was consumed, and a fire (with our fur-hostess) was enjoyed.

Note: I recommend taking the ‘scenic route’ to Zion as opposed to the opposite, the drive back is mostly uphill and void of the spectacular vistas.

Everyone enjoys a good campfire

The weekend was perfect. It was another reminder for me of how lucky I am to be in such a great location and how blessed to have friends to explore with. (Also, I’m pretty sure I earned 5 stars on “FriendAdvisor” :->)

As I looked at the door of the cabin in Grafton, it reminded me that I took the opportunity to move to UT on blind faith. Going on an adventure isn’t exactly something new for me. This time though, the Universe has provided me with a most magnificent experience since walking through that door. For that I’m thankful.

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“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” Paulo Coelho