On the Road with Stuck.

20150402_131113[1]Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

We recently went on a road trip, aiming to visit the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, and a few other places. We could have flown, but I hate to fly, so we opted to rent a car and take the scenic route. We put nearly 4000 miles on the rented Prius, and we had a wonderful time.

IMG_0939Death Valley

Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, UtahCapitol Reef National Park

Constantly over the course of the trip, Mr. Stuck and I would marvel at not only the natural wonders we were seeing around us, but also at the improvement in our lives that allowed us this opportunity.  I don’t think we would have taken such an ambitious journey if we hadn’t lost weight and gotten healthier. I could not imagine doing what we did with all those extra pounds to carry around.

Capitol Reef Natl Park, UtahCapitol Reef National Park

IMG_0421Bryce Canyon National Park

Because we’re feeling good, we were able to walk around a bit and see the beauty of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, Death Valley, the Hoover Dam, and so much in between. We were so busy with things to do and see that we never made it to the Grand Canyon.

IMG_0467Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Bryce Canyon Natl Park, UtahBryce Canyon National Park

My point is that when I was heavy, I was tired. My body hurt. My feet hurt. I just wanted to sit down most of the time. I was so preoccupied with the voice in my head and the running tally of aches and pains, excuses, justifications, negativity, frustration and depression, that I didn’t enjoy things fully. There was always a ‘but’ — I’d love to, but… was my answer far too often. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. In time, the spirit became less willing and more discouraged as the flesh became weaker. I became a stick in the mud, unwilling to move out of my rut. It was just easier that way.

20150402_133737[1]Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

I was a little apprehensive about riding that many miles; it had been a long time since I’d done so, and I was concerned that my back might give me trouble. We stopped often for breaks and made sure to move around, and I never had any problems. Even the hotel beds, another potential problem spot, were remarkably unremarkable. My healthier, more energetic self managed to do just fine.  Wow!

Zion National Park

The trip was a success on many levels. We got to see some of the best of God’s creation and man’s, as well.

IMG_0769That’s a long way down. Hoover Dam.

We saw things we’d never seen before, allowing our whims to inspire us to take side trips ‘just because.’ In Vegas, I got to spend time with my cousin, who was my best friend growing up; he’s still a lot of fun to be around.

Zion Natl Park, UtahZion National Park

We brought a cooler and had prepared a bunch of healthy snacks for the road, and we also stopped at some great spots.

20150404_143817[1]Turkey posole and chicken quesadilla with garden greens to share at Hell’s Backbone Grill.

It was fun sharing the turkey posole at Hell’s Backbone Grill, a gourmet restaurant in the middle of the Utah desert, and treating ourselves to iced mochas at Kiva Kottage. We put a few rounds through a P90 submachine gun at Arizona’s Last Stop and sampled beautiful berries at Godiva Chocolates.

20150403_175046[1]Capitol Reef National Park

This trip really showed us how much better things are, now that we are taking better care of ourselves. A road trip may not be a big deal to some folks, but it is to us. It started out as a fun way to mark our wedding anniversary, but it became much more than that. It became a celebration of our renewed health and spirit.

IMG_0763Hoover Dam and Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

It gave us a little preview of how good the rest of our lives can be.


Go With Your Elbow.


from http://primaryperitonealcancerinfo.blogspot.com/
from http://primaryperitonealcancerinfo.blogspot.com/

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go. 

 – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!


Mr. Stuck is a former Boy Scout who knows how to tie a gazillion knots, rig up a shelter in a flash, and navigate by the stars.  He was consistently successful in Scout orienteering, where the participants use a compass and a map to go from start to finish on a course via several control waypoints; the one to finish accurately in the least time, wins.  (I once read how a person can navigate by how the moss grows on trees; in the Northern Hemisphere, it grows mostly on the north* side of the tree, and the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.  That may work in some parts of the world, but up here in the Pacific Northwest, moss grows everywhere.  Trust me.) 

I’m grateful for his skills, especially for his ability to find his way around.  You see, I have a confession to make: I am a navigational imbecile.  That’s right – I’m one of those folks who can’t find my way out of a paper sack or find my car in a parking lot.  About the only places I know how to find dependably are my workplace, my parents’ house, and my own home, and even that’s debatable sometimes.  And don’t ask me to draw a map to show you how to get there – that’s not going to turn out well.  Sorry. 

The Mister does this kind of stuff for a living; it’s a perfect fit for his aptitude.  His job is to locate underground utilities, and that has taken him to clients in several states as well as all over our own.  Most of the time, it’s pretty straightforward, but some days will find him trudging through swampy terrain, climbing hills, or blazing a trail through thick underbrush; it can be very demanding.  But I know he will never get lost, no matter where he finds himself. 

My lack of a natural sense of direction flummoxes and frustrates him on a regular basis.  I’m a map turner, which means I can only visualize where I’m going if I turn the map so north is at the top.  This makes me a mediocre navigator at best.  For reasons I’m not sure I understand, Mr. Stuck normally has me drive when we’re going somewhere together, unless we’re heading out of town to an unfamiliar place; even then, sometimes, he’ll turn it over to me.  (I think it’s the navigational equivalent of eating my vegetables.)  Even driving around locally, I still get turned around, and I’m often completely confused as to which way I’m supposed to be going.  Poor Mister – he wonders how I can be so smart and yet still get lost in a parking lot.  I don’t know – it’s just how I am.

Back in the dark ages, before GPS units graced cars and cell phones, he hit upon an idea for me.  Given that I would get to an intersection and my instinct would tell me I should be turning left when in reality I needed to turn right, he gave me some keen words of advice: Go with your elbow. 

Huh?  What do you mean, go with my elbow

And then I realized: if I’m pointing left, my elbow is pointing right.  Instead of following my gut or trying to remember from whence I came, neither of which is reliable in my case, going with my elbow means I will most likely make it back.  Brilliant!  It works for me.  (Of course, the GPS also works for me, so I use it.  A lot.  Thank you, GPS inventor!)

Going with your elbow means changing direction, usually 180 degrees, from what you initially had in mind – but it’s not necessarily about driving.  Maybe it means changing a habit and learning something new, like what I’ve been doing as I re-learn how to shop, cook, and eat after WLS.  Maybe it means addressing the negative thinking and turning it around.  Maybe it means ditching the status quo for something new and different.  Maybe it means saying no when you’re used to saying yes, or vice-versa. 

Fifty is approaching quickly, and I want to head the rest of my life in a better direction.  I need a map and a compass so I don’t get lost.  Thankfully, I have a great tour guide and companion in Mr. Stuck.  The path I was on is deeply rutted; it is full of bad choices and littered with their detritus.  I have come to a crossroads; I can follow the well-worn path of getting by, or I can strike out on a different route.

Instead of doing the same old thing, I’m going with my elbow.  Maybe it would work for you, too. 

*Thanks to astute reader Nanette for correcting me — I had the moss thing backwards.  See what I mean?  I haven’t a clue!  Thanks, Nanette!

Around Here.

tree lined
After a week of being sick, I’m ready to get back on track.  What better way than to put up a new post? 

Driving home a few weeks ago, Mr. Stuck and I laughed about a particularly amusing incident that happened four or five years back on the same stretch of county road we were on.  I thought I’d share the story.  First, some background:

We live in a mostly rural area (“the boonies”) where horses share the road with logging trucks, bicycles, Volvo wagons and Harleys.  In the summer we have a farmers’ market in the center of town, near the liquor store, medical marijuana clinic, and post office.  The civic center houses tennis and tae kwon do lessons as well as a museum, Friday night skate nights and crab feed fundraisers.  Historically, the people who live in our community have prided themselves on their independence and resourcefulness; mini farms dot the landscape, and the ‘old ways’ of homesteading are alive and well.  The area itself has a very interesting history of radicalism, alternate philosophies, and anarchists.  It is for these reasons, aside from the beauty here, that I love where we live and where we chose to raise our family.

It is also for these reasons that not a lot of things surprise me out here anymore…except for this one night, several years ago.  Mr. Stuck and I had been out and about, running errands, I suppose, with Numbers One and Young at home.  It was dark, probably 10:00 at night, and the night was cool, but dry.  I was driving toward home on a two-lane road that proceeds downhill past the power lines and wends its way back up to meet the state highway.  Posted speed limit is 40 mph, but it’s really easy to go faster as you gain momentum, so you have to be careful.

There was nobody on the road that night but us.  I was just past the crest of the hill and heading down when my headlights caught something up ahead in the road.  It was big and light-colored; I slowed way down as we tried to figure out what it was.  Just my luck — as we approached, we realized it was a man, standing in the middle of my lane.

In a squirrel costume, head to toe.  Smiling.

I gave him wide berth, moving into the other lane to avoid him.  He didn’t move; he merely stood there, facing me, as I slowed to barely a crawl.  It rather freaked me out, because it wasn’t Halloween, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why a man would be dressed in a squirrel costume and standing in the middle of the road in front of an oncoming car, unless he had some dastardly plan.  (What the plan was, I had no idea, but I knew it had to be dastardly.)  When we were merely feet from him, he waved genially with his squirrel paw, turned, and sauntered away.

After we exchanged puzzled looks and said, did we really just see that? Mr. Stuck and I laughed and talked about it all the way home, and for long afterward.  We were glad that we had been together that night, because had we been alone and seen it, nobody would have believed the story, and we might have doubted our own eyes.  However, since we could each corroborate the other, we could assure one another that no, we weren’t crazy — or, at least, we weren’t delusional.

There really was a man-squirrel in the road that night.

This, friends, is my life.

Roundabouts and Road Rage

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

– Unknown

road rage

photo credit Robert S. Donovan

You know, I have my driving pet peeves just like everyone else.  My work commute is about 20 miles each way, so I have plenty of time for irritating encounters with other drivers.  I won’t bore you with all of the things I hate about other people’s driving habits, because I’m sure I am also guilty of a couple of them.  I’m not perfect — but I think I’m a pretty reasonable driver, apart from my impatience, which manifests itself in my right foot.  I use my turn signals; I check my blind spots before changing lanes; I turn on my headlights in the rain and at dusk; and I wave politely when someone lets me merge ahead of them.

But what is it with people who can’t figure out how a roundabout works?  In case you are not familiar with the term, a roundabout is a circular junction, considered a safer alternative to a traditional intersection.  Roundabouts slow traffic and allow it to flow smoothly instead of stopping.  Entering cars yield to traffic already in the circle, travel one direction around it, and exit via one or more outlets.  All in all, they’re pretty simple.

Grand Canyon National Park: Tusayan: South Roundabout 0536

photo credit Grand Canyon NPS

Roundabouts are normally well marked, so you know which direction to go (counterclockwise in right-driving countries, clockwise in left-driving countries), and if you miss your exit the first time, you can continue on around until you come to it again.  The idea is to keep traffic moving.  The circles have existed in my area long enough so people shouldn’t still be struggling with how to use them.  Except that they are.

traffic circle sign

photo credit baojr

The other day, I drove with Number Young Son to a nearby town.  There’s a roundabout on that route.  As I approached it, I waited for the cars in it to pass so I could enter.  One car passed on its way; the next car stopped before it got to me.  Stopped.  Dead in the circle.  My son said, “Mom, why is that car stopping?”  I threw up my hands in a “What the heck??” gesture and motioned for her to continue.  She never budged.  Instead, she impatiently waved me on.  I could see her nodding her head, waving her arms, mouthing, “GO!  GO!”  Like I was the one holding everything up.

So I went.  I’m still shaking my head over that one.

More recently, I was in a nearby town that has several of these roundabouts.  Apart from the initial confusion when they were first installed, the public has adjusted to them well.  Traffic can be very heavy in that area, but the roundabouts help keep it moving.  On this day I approached the circle in the outside lane, as I wanted to take the second exit, which leads to the highway.  There were a lot of cars coming and going, but soon it was my turn.  As I entered the circle, I had to come to a complete stop, as the car ahead of me had stopped.  I noticed that a truck ahead of the car was stopped in the exit, side by side with a van that was facing the opposite way, trying to ENTER the circle via the exit.

Yes, really.

The truck and the van had their windows down, and I’m guessing that the truck driver was telling the driver of the van that she was going the wrong direction.  Fortunately, there is enough room on that exit for more than one vehicle; otherwise, it could have gotten ugly rather quickly.  The truck and car ahead of me took that exit, and as I did the same, I noticed that the van’s driver was a confused-looking older lady.  There are several entrances and outlets on that circle, and I wondered if she had confused the two.  I hope she was able to get going in the right direction without further trouble.

I’ve done some dumb things in my life, but I have never entered on an exit, nor stopped to let someone into a roundabout.  A friend of mine once stopped on the highway, during her driving test, no less, and backed up (!!) to read what the billboard said.  Her exasperated examiner halted her test and directed her back to the licensing office.  She couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just ‘skip that part’ and continue on.