The search for easy Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

Almost a year ago, my daughter decided to become a vegetarian. While I respected the motivation behind her decision, I was a little bit worried about how I was going to feed my family. We had finally gotten to a place where I could make ONE dinner and everyone would eat it. But my husband does not think it’s a meal unless some form of meat is present. Fortunately, H will eat fish, but unfortunately, Jeff only ate swordfish, shrimp and lobster. Oh, and fried catfish at Sportsman’s Grille. Fast forward a year, H is still a pesca-vegetarian (eating only fish), J has added Trout, Tuna, Scallops and Halibut to his list of edible seafood, and I’ve found the best places to buy seafood in Nashville (not an easy task since we’re 8 hours from the nearest ocean).

But I can’t serve fish every night. Sometimes I have to make vegetarian chili (added meat to J’s), vegetarian pasta, and I am learning how to prepare tofu. The only experience we have had eating Tofu was the vegetarian lettuce wraps at PF Changs. And to be honest, it’s hard to tell the difference between their tofu wraps and the chicken wraps. I found a recipe online for the PF Chang’s version, but both times I made them the tofu just tasted blah…and the texture wasn’t the same. Plus, after mixing together the marinade, the cooking sauce, and the dipping sauce, and chopping up the vegetables and tofu, my kitchen looked like Haiti probably looks this morning. (Small pause for a prayer for those victims).

So I have been experimenting with the recipe, and last night I made a much better, easier version of the above recipe. I think the key is how to prepare the tofu before stir-frying. I start with a block of firm tofu, drained, and put it on a stack of 5 or 6 paper towels. Then I top it with another few paper towels and put something heavy on top (a heavy pan, a plate with a teapot full of water, etc.) After about 20 minutes, I turn the tofu over, replace with a couple more paper towels (I know, bad for the environment), and repeat the process for another 10-15 minutes. Then I thinly dice it, put it on a roasting pan sprayed with cooking spray, and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. THEN, I marinate it. When tofu is warm, it supposedly takes the marinade flavors better. When I put the recipe together about 30 minutes before dinner, the tofu got really nice and chewy and very flavorful.

So here’s the recipe:

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

4 Tbsp. Soy sauce (low sodium)
2 Tbsp. Rice Wine
1 TBsp. Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 Tbsp. lime juice

Mix above together and cover prepared tofu for 1-2 hours, or longer before stir frying.

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, or soy crumbles (see note)
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
1 small can water chestnuts, finely chopped
1/2 bag broccoli slaw mixture
2 Tbsp. canola, sesame or peanut oil
1/4 cup of Iron Chef Honey Garlic stir fry and marinade sauce (or similar bottled sauce)
Iceberg, Boston Bibb or Butter Lettuce Leaves

Heat oil in wok over medium heat, add drained, marinated tofu and stir fry 15-20 minutes, stirring gently until browned. You can see below how the tofu “pops” as it browns.

Remove from pan, and add remaining ingredients. Stir fry for 5 minutes until veggies begin to soften. Add a little bit of reserved marinade to deglaze if needed. Stir fry for a few more minutes as veggies continue to soften, then add stir fry sauce. Stir until veggies are done and sauce is warm. Add tofu and stir. Serve with Iceberg, Boston Bibb or Butter Lettuce leaves.

Dipping Sauce:
Lettuce Wrap Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Combine all ingredients and serve with lettuce wraps.

NOTE:  Sometimes I don’t feel like going to the trouble of draining the tofu, so I substitute Soy Crumbles.  There are many different brands, but they can be found in the produce department, where you buy tofu and other vegetarian meat-type products.  They have the consistency of ground beef and work very well in this recipe because they soak up the taste of the stir fry sauce.

Focusing on “Firsts”, not “Lasts”

Last week we spent fall break in California, looking at colleges.  At this point in H’s college search, we’re narrowing the list down, instead of adding to it.  There were six colleges she was strongly interested in before the trip, and afterwards, there were only two.   

One thing I learned about California…specifically the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.  They don’t have enough roads for all the cars.  Seriously.  Driving  the 45 miles from Santa Clara to San Francisco took almost three hours.  The last 90 minutes were spent crawling the last 10 miles.  Luckily, we finished up our marathon driving with a day and a half to relax (aka:  shop) in San Francisco, and fit in a couple of nice meals. 

Since we realized the last three times we were in San Francisco we ate at the same places (Boulevard, Slanted Door, Bix), we tried a couple of new places.  Chaya, a French-Japanese brasserie at the Embarkadero, that we loved.  Warm and intimate, with amazing sushi and a nice wine list.  It was a really nice evening. The fact that we were able to stay awake throughout a leisurely dinner made it even better, since that morning we started in Los Angeles, then toured U.C.  Davis, Santa Clara University, and survived the marathon drive to San Francisco, so we were exhausted.

Crunchy Tuna at Chaya… bad photo, incredible dish!

 The next night we walked around the block to Fish and Farm, which although it didn’t have the ambiance we felt at Chaya, had unbelievable food.  Even the salted butter for the warm rolls was superb!  Fish and Farm serves locally sourced Seafood, Meat and Produce, sourcing most from within a 100 mile radius.

Pan Seared halibut with heirloom tomatoes at Fish and Farm

 Even though neither of these places were on the “top 100” list of San Francisco restaurants, they would have topped most restaurants in Nashville.  The Nashville restaurant scene is getting better, don’t get me wrong, but I think there are only a small handful here that serve consistently good, unique, and local or organic food. 

But back to the college search process.  It’s all very exciting, looking at great schools, in great cities, with great academics…but it’s a nerve-wracking process for all of us.  With the common app, it’s a little bit easier to apply to multiple schools, but when the pool of possible colleges and universities gets so big, it gets overwhelming.  H really wants a school with smaller class sizes.  She loves being able to get to know her teachers, and doesn’t relish the thought of being in a class with 150-400 students.  But on the other hand, the small schools often don’t have the breadth of opportunities, and since she changes her mind about what she wants to study about once a month, she would like to have multiple choices, in case her first choice doesn’t end up being her passion.

I’ve been impressed with how thoroughly she has researched her possibilites, and her enthusiasm for exploring all aspects of the decision.  She has narrowed her list from 14-15 to 7 schools.  From Washington, DC to California, she has pretty much covered the United States with choices.  Anything but in the south, or close to home, which I’m O.K. with.  I don’t know if it’s because she’s an only child, or because she has traveled extensively, and lived in the same city her whole life, but she is ready to fly.  When the applications finally get sent, and the acceptance/rejection letters arrive, it will definitely get interesting.  Right now, even though I am trying not to be a helicopter mom and let her drive through the application process, I know I will be relieved when the last “submit” button is pushed. 

But I am trying to relish these days.  Everything is the “last time”.  Her last “first day of school”, her last Friday night football game, her last ACT test, her last homecoming, etc.  She’s decided to do senior spring break with her friends this year, so for the first time, we’ll do spring break separately.  That means we had our last “family spring break” last year without even knowing it!  When J and I hiked Little Green Mountain in North Carolina this morning, we realized the next time we hike and play the alphabet game (a tradition we had with H for years) will probably be with our grandchildren.  But instead of focusing on “last”, I’m trying to focus on “firsts”.  The first time we let her stay home overnight alone, the first time she makes her own meals,  the first time she moves away, the first time she comes home for the holidays.  We will have many “firsts” ahead.  The first time she brings a boy home will be exciting (hopefully!), the first time we drive away and leave her in her dorm room will be…I don’t know?  Sad? Exciting? Both?

Preschool graduation

senior photo

Last night we met a few new couples whose children are out of college: working, volunteering, or attending graduate school.  Listening to the pride they had in what their children are doing made me realize that we are not going to be finished parenting our daughter when she goes to college.  Her choices and her possibilites are endless, and it will be so much fun to experience all her “firsts”, even if from afar.  There is no way to explain how fast the years feel like they’ve gone, and I’m sure one day when she has her own family she’ll understand why I am so melancholy these days, but I feel so blessed and fortunate to be experiencing it all. 

Exercising after Ablation…YES!

We’re back in NC.  J’s birthday was yesterday, and we decided to do a quick trip up here to meet with the architect and designer for our new house, and hopefully see the beginning of the fall colors.  The fall here is my absolute favorite time of year.  We couldn’t have picked a better weekend.  The weather is crisp, the skies are clear and blue, and the colors are starting to peek out.  We can’t come back for a couple more weeks, so I hope we don’t miss the spectacular orange, red and gold that will probably really pop next week. 

I am 12 days past ablation, and I am absolutely amazed at the difference!  Not only do I sleep like a baby since the PVCs have disappeared, but from the minute I began to exercise again I am back up to the intensity I was doing before this all started, almost three years ago.  The only disappointment is that since I couldn’t run, but wanted a similar calorie burn, I was walking on a treadmill for 90 minutes at 15% incline.  Probably the dumbest thing I could have done, because I have done something to my hip.  Doing high impact things like running really hurts my hip, so I can’t run right now, but at least it’s not because I can’t breathe!  So now I’m stretching like crazy, and still doing the elliptical and stair machine, and today J and I biked the mountains here.  It’s a relatively short ride…about 10 miles, but the first hill is constant uphill for 3.5 miles (about 1200 feet rise in elevation), then we go off road on a gravel cut through for another couple of miles that seems like 20, and another huge steep hill that seems to go forever.  But it’s a beautiful ride and with the leaves changing the views just blow my mind.   Last time I biked with J I had to stop about every five minutes, in tears, because I physically could not do what I had done a million times before, and ended up having to turn around.  That resulted in my trekking to NYC to get tested, which uncovered the V tach, so it was all good, I guess.

Who knew that a simple catheterization could cure me?  I feel so lucky that the problem was finally discovered and it was completely fixable.  I probably should wait until I say “completely”, because it’s still early, and these things do sometimes fail, but so far, I feel like I traded in an old model for a brand spanking new heart!   J read a statistic somewhere that up to 40% of medical conditions are misdiagnosed every year.  In my case, I was lucky.  My condition wasn’t life threatening…I had no underlying heart disease.  In fact, if I wasn’t an athlete, I might never have even known I had it!  But it was definitely changing my quality of life.  When I think that three doctors (a cardiologist and two pulmonologists) missed it, and that I spent tons of money on asthma medications that didn’t work ($300/month!), it’s a little frustrating.  But the end justifies the means.  I am just so thankful that I am able to continue to run and bike.  Sure, I’m still 50 years old, with 50 year old joints and the aches and pains that come with that, but my heart is not going to stop me!

Now I just have to pick a marathon for 2012!

My Ablation Adventures…

Whew…what a crazy few months it’s been.  Updating this blog has had to take a backseat to family stuff, and some health stuff.  Hopefully things are settling down now so I can write more regularly.  I’ve had so many people ask about my health I thought I should just explain it all here…

Two and a half years ago, I started having trouble running.  One day I would run 9 miles with no problems, and the next I would have to stop several times to catch my breath.  The first time it happened I thought I just must have been having a bad day…maybe I didn’t eat right, was dehydrated, was getting old, or just in a funk.  But when it started to happen on a regular basis I knew something wasn’t right.  We had a trip planned to Colorado and I started getting a little nervous about going to high altitude if there was something health-wise going on, so I decided to get checked out.  My doc sent me to a cardiologist, who ordered a stress treadmill/echo cardiogram.  I passed with flying colors, except for some little thing the doctor wanted to take a closer look at.  (He told J it might be a Myxoma, a common tumor inside the cavities of the heart, no big deal).  Luckily, it was nothing, and he said I was fine to go skiing.

But in the following weeks my “exercise intolerance” continued, so we were referred to a pulmonologist who said I had “exercise-induced asthma“.  I began a $300.00/month regimen of inhaled corticosteroids as well as albuteral as needed, and was hopeful I’d get it under control.  J didn’t believe I actually had asthma, because after running 9 marathons and doing several triathlons over the years, I had never had so much as a cough or wheezing episode.  And I wasn’t wheezing then, either.  It was hard to really describe the sensation, but I felt my chest tightening, so I couldn’t get a good breath.  It felt sometimes like my heart was beating outside my chest.  The only thing I could say for certainty was that a few minutes into a run, I HAD to STOP!  I mean, had to stop.  I couldn’t go on.  But I never had to gasp for breath.  My doctor told me that asthma doesn’t always present itself the way you see it on TV, and he was certain that if I continued the medication it would help. 

Fast forward about two years to the beginning of this past summer, and it was worse than ever.  It happened every single time I exercised, no matter what kind of exercise I did.  Swimming, biking, running, stairmaster, elliptical, hiking, etc., all gave me the same symptoms.  As addicted to exercise as I am, I continued to exercise through it.  In pain, but way slower and less intense than usual.  I would just go twice as long.  J finally got frustrated with the whole situation when we were on a bike ride.  It was our loop around the neighborhood in North Carolina, very hilly and a great workout.  Typically I would loop him on the long uphills, but that day I couldn’t go five minutes without having to stop to catch my breath.  I was in tears.  So he called his cousin, who is the head of NYU hospital in New York.  He put us in touch with Dr. Frances Adams, one of the top asthma specialists in New York.  We decided to fly up for a quick visit with him.

I loved him.  He was very kind and understanding, even when I cried and blubbered through the whole consultation explaining how much I missed running.  He said we would figure it out and felt sure we could find a treatment that worked.  Heck, there was a list a mile long of olympic athletes with exercise-induced asthma, so if they could do it, surely I could.  So he ordered another battery of tests, which weren’t conclusive, so he sent me for another treadmill test, even though I told him I had passed one a couple of years before.

I had to go back to New York to drop H off at the airport for her trip to China this summer, so we scheduled it for that time.  J wasn’t with me.  I was hooked up to an echo, and started walking on the treadmill, which increased the incline and speed every 3 minutes.  I could see the EKG while I was walking, and it looked like a normal heartbeat to me.  I have lasted over 20 minutes in the past during this test, but about eleven minutes in, my EKG started going crazy!  It looked like someone took the needle and started scribbling up and down.  As soon as I got the words out, “Hey, what is THAT?”, he stopped the test and had me lay down really quickly. 

Long story short, I had a bout of Ventricular Tachycardia, where my heart rate went from 110 to 200 and started beating very erratically, originating in the ventricular area, not the atrium, where it normally does.  The doctor explained to me that that is likely what caused my exercise intolerance.

“Wait, WHAT?  I don’t have asthma?” were the first words out of my mouth.  The next, “Can we fix it?”  The answers were yes and yes.  I probably didn’t have asthma, and there was a fix, a cardiac ablation, where they go into your heart with tiny catheters, induce the arrythmia so they can map it, and then cauterize the electrical pathway that causes the irregular beats.

I was referred to a cardiologist in Nashville, at Vanderbilt, who ordered a zillion more tests to rule out the presence of heart disease: MRI, calcium screening, cat scan, and a short cardiac catheterization to check out my pulmonary artery.  Then he told me, “Well, I’m the plumber, and you need an electrician.”  So I was referred to an EP, who had me take a week of verapamil, then re-do my stress test.  The medication did not do anything, and my v-tach and PVCs showed up easily during the test.

The cardiac ablation is nothing short of miraculous, at least to me.  I had to spend one night in the hospital, but they didn’t have to completely put me to sleep, went in through my groin so they didn’t have to cut me open, went into my heart and found the short circuit and fixed it!  I was groggy during the procedure so I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember feeling a couple of the burns when they cauterized.  I was kind of moaning and I heard them say, “She’s feeling that,” and I don’t remember anything afterwards so they must have given me more sedative.  I woke up and they were ecstatic that they were easily able to induce the V tach, and fix it, and when they tried to induce it again they couldn’t!  I’m sure a lot of it was the medication, but I cried like a baby when they told me that.

I had it done on Monday, came home from the hospital on Tuesday, walked a little bit Wednesday-Friday, and yesterday I test-drove my newly ablated heart by going on a 3 mile run.  With NO issures at all!!  I felt like I could have run longer, but I wasn’t supposed to so I walked the rest of the six mile loop.  It’s now six days post-op and I am so optimistic that they really did fix it.  I didn’t realize that the almost constant palpitations I was experiencing, even at rest,  weren’t normal, but now that I don’t have them it’s an amazing feeling.   I will have to wear a monitor before my follow up with the surgeon in a couple of weeks, so they will know for sure, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I’ve spent too much time on the internet, reading about other people’s experiences with ablation, which is not a great idea.  There are lots of failed ablations out there, but I think the people who have good results probably aren’t on the forums looking for answers.  It’s a very common procedure, and I am going to stay positive that I’ll be back running marathons in 2012!

On the Brink

Somewhere in the last two or three years, my 17 year old daughter has become her own person.  I can’t pinpoint when it happened.  It had to be more gradual than overnight, but at some point she stopped loving all the same things that we did.  Sure, we still like to do some of the same things, like hiking and snow skiing, but doing it with her parents just doesn’t hold the same excitement it used to.

Gone are the family trips where she was ecstatic to be with us, basking in the undivided attention of an only child:  the times where shopping with Mom, going to the movies with both parents, or escaping to the mountains with “just the three of us” were good things.

She’s on the brink…almost 18, aching for the independence to do her own thing, explore the world, or just hang out with her friends, but still anchored by the fraying ties of financial and emotional need. We’re very fortunate.  She’s a good kid.  When I do a Google search on “18 year old daughter” the first sites to pop up are dealing with ungratefulness, dabbling in porn, “out of control”, and runaways.  I’m actually excited for her, for the adventures she will undertake, for the opportunities she will have, and even for the hard lessons she will learn.

It’s still hard.  But instead of focusing on how much I miss our constantly being together and sharing, I am treasuring the rare moments when she opens up.  I try not to think of how few times like this we will have in the future, but appreciate what we have.  I pray that we will always be close (in spirit, if not in distance), and that she will always know how much we treasure her.

In the meantime, I am marveling at her enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and try new things.

Here are a couple of photos of her trip to Alaska this summer…we’ve spoken to her three times in 29 days (probably the number of times she has been able to shower) and she is in heaven.  Something tells me her re-entry into Mom and Dad 24/7 is going to be difficult!

Happy 75th Birthday, Daddy!

We celebrated my dad’s 75th birthday last night with almost all his siblings and spouses, which is all he wanted to do.  It was such a nice evening, and reminded me of how much my family means to me. 
When I was growing up, my dad was my touchstone.  He was the one I measured everything and everyone against.  He was the smartest dad I knew.  Anytime I had a question about anything, he ALWAYS knew the answer.  Either he was the best bluffer in the world or he knew a little bit about a whole lot of things.  Either way, I loved the conversations we had about so many things-maybe not so much the informational tours of sewage treatment plants (he was a civil engineer and many family vacations revolved around wherever his jobs were)-but almost everything else.  Now my husband calls him the “Shell Answer Man”.  His love of learning inspired me to never stop reading, listening and opening my mind to learn new things.
He worked very hard when my brother and I were little-traveling quite a bit-but when he was in town he never missed a ballgame, dance recital, school or church function.  Now that he’s retired, he is the best cheerleader for his grandchildren’s events, sometimes going from one to another to another-all in the same day!  I thank God every day for parents whose love of family permeates everything they do.
Daddy didn’t cry much when I was little.  In fact, I remember vividly the first time I saw him cry.  He came to school when I was in third grade to pick me up and tell me that my grandfather had passed away.  It was such an anomaly…he was the strong, stoic one in the family…that it left an indelible impression on me.  Who knew that he must have saved up all those tears, because now his love for his family makes it difficult for him to get through a family prayer without waterworks!  I always thought I was a crybaby.  It’s good to know I came by it naturally.
My father’s life and the way he’s lived it has taught me by example what it means to have a family-strong leadership and unconditional love for God and each other.  I once read an essay about how life is made up of the in-between moments.  Not just the posed, photo-op BIG EVENTS in life, but the moments in between.  I remember so many in-between moments with my dad…sitting beside him in church, listening to his big BOOMING bass voice belting out hymns, going to Shoney’s every Sunday after church, fishing in the creek at Grandma’s house, marathon sing-alongs on our many road trips…the list goes on and on.  I’m so thankful for the moments, and for my Dad, for teaching me what life’s really all about.

Cars and Deer Don’t Mix!

This morning I drove to Franklin to take a silversmithing class…something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  It was in one of the many gated communities that have sprung up along Hillsboro road…nice homes, small yards, little to no trees, but in the safety of a gated community.  When H was little I wished we lived in one of those, so she could play in the neighborhood with other neighborhood kids, but now that she’s older I’m glad we stayed where we are.  Our old neighborhood has large lots, tons of trees, and an assortment of wildlife at any given time.

It’s not rare to see a beautiful deer leap across the road in front of you, but until today I always admired them from afar.   I had mistakenly thought that they were afraid of cars.  After my class I was driving home down Hillsboro Road, and about 500 feet in front of me a beautiful gazelle jumped off the hill to the left of the highway, glided across the road and down the hill to the right, into a small set of trees.  I remember admiring the pure beauty of one of God’s creatures doing what came so naturally…running.

Then, before I could really register what came next, I saw another one, running into the road right in front of me.  I slammed on my brakes, and in that split second, she froze, bending her front legs and looking right into my eyes.  The next thing I knew, I had hit her.  I skidded to a stop, thinking I had run over her and she was behind me.  Screaming inside the car, I pulled over and took off my seatbelt to run back to see how badly she was hurt.  That’s when I heard the most horrible sound…a braying, long, drawn out wail that sounded like it was inside my car with me.  She was still under my car…I must have hit her and dragged her with me while I was trying to stop.  Words can’t describe the horror I felt, the utter and complete sense of not knowing what to do.

My moaning almost matched hers as I pulled my phone out to call 911.  I tried to stay calm while telling the operator where I was, but when I hung up the phone I was all alone in the car with this poor critically injured creature trapped under my seat, making the most god-awful noise I had ever heard.  I didn’t know what to do…by this time I was hysterical.  Every time I would think I was getting myself under control, she would start wailing again and so would I.  Finally, a volunteer police officer came and told me to get out of the passenger side, so I wouldn’t disturb the animal (or see it), and a couple of men picked up the front of my car to try to relieve the pressure.  I was pacing back and forth, thinking I needed to call my husband, but in the state I was in I knew if I called him he would be really worried.  So I finally just sat down on the side of the road and curled up into a ball, crying. Then two angels…two women stopped and came over to check on me.  Their kind words and most importantly, very strong hugs, helped to calm me down.

I called J, spoke with the deputy, and made sure my car was drivable.  I don’t know what they did with the deer.  I think they put her out of her misery somehow, because she finally stopped crying.  I know I probably over-reacted, but I will never forget the look on that deer’s face the instant before I hit her, or her long mournful cries.  I also know it wasn’t my fault, but I hate that the construction all over their natural habitat  forced them out into traffic.  It didn’t damage my car, and I wasn’t hurt, so I guess I was lucky.  But that poor deer, just following her mother or sibling or friend on a nice spring afternoon wasn’t.   I guess the lesson for me might be that if I see one deer, that there might be more very close by, so I need to be more aware.  It’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.

Thank God for Ski Patrol

Final Curves at the bottom of “Longshot”

We spent our spring break snow skiing in Snowmass, Colorado, a tradition in our family for the last ten years. Even though my daughter, H, is 17 and most of her friends are at the beach, she still prefers skiing with her parents (horror!) because she loves it so much. In my opinion, Snowmass is the absolute best skiing in Colorado…maybe even best in the country. With over 3000 acres of terrain, 91 trails (I looked it up), mostly high speed chairlifts and access to your choice of cruisers, glades, steeps, and my favorite, bumps, it never gets boring. I love that going to different areas of the mountain usually only involves one lift or short run, and I love that even during spring break it never seems crowded, and yesterday I found out one more reason to love it here. The emergency response teams, from the 911 operators to the ski patrol, were absolutely top notch.

It was the last run of the day, a typical spring day of skiing, where the conditions up top were great, but getting down to the base involved a lot of slushy, messy, slow snow, so we usually try to get some momentum on the last part of the run so we can make it to the bottom without having to pole as much. My husband, J, was in front and we were actually moving at a pretty good pace for the bottom part of longshot, when he suddenly did a quick hockey stop and jumped out of his skis. I stopped, too, and then saw what he had seen. A teenage boy was on his hands and knees, at the edge of a ravine, vomiting up a lot of blood. Our initial thoughts were that he was just losing his lunch, but then we saw a ski at the bottom of the ravine, and one set of tracks leading up to where he was.  He had his cell phone in his hand and handed it to J, who was able to tell the 911 operator where we were.  The operator was absolutely amazing.  She told J what to say:  ask questions, comfort him, tell him he was going to be o.k., and generally just keep him calm.  The boy was obviously in an incredible amount of pain.  At first he was hanging over the edge, but was able to climb up to the level part of the hill and roll over onto his back.  I took off my coat and put it under his head, rubbed his forehead and held his hand.  He was able to tell us his name, age (16), and that he was staying with friends who owned a home in Aspen.  We couldn’t find any blood on the outside of his body, but he was moaning and in tremendous pain.  J took his coat off, we covered him up, and about 10 minutes after we found him the ski patrol was there. 

They were incredible.  The first two that arrived promptly started talking to him, assessing the situation, and very soon some more came with the transport vehicle.  They were in communication with the patrol main office the entire time, and by the time they’d assessed the situation and loaded him onto the snowmobile stretcher, we heard the ambulance in the background to take him to the hospital.  After they left we stayed with the accident investigators while they tried to piece together what had happened.  The most likely scenario is that something happened at the top of the ravine (out of control jump, skis crossed, or any number of things) and he lost one ski there, then was airborne for 20-25 feet and “superman” landed on rocks at the bottom.  It’s unclear whether he lost consciousness there, but he somehow made it to the top before vomiting. 

J and I were so lucky to have been there when we were.  I’m so glad we could do something to help, however little it was.  But as I was holding his hand and rubbing his head, all I could think of was that he was some mom’s little boy, and this could have been my daughter.  I was wiped out when I got home and couldn’t concentrate on anything.  I kept bursting into tears, imagining the worst.  I wanted to know how he was.  I remembered his name because we had asked him that at the very beginning, but I didn’t want to bother his family at the hospital.  So I called Ski Patrol at Snowmass and was able to talk to the director, who had been the one on the phone with J while the rescue was taking place.  He told me because of the HIPAA laws he couldn’t give me any information, but was very kind and thankful for our help, even though I couldn’t even finish a sentence without crying.  I tried to suck it up, and know that we had done what we could, but I couldn’t think of anything else.  I was emotionally drained and slept very little last night.   I had received an email from the Ski Patrol director, Mr. Chalmers,  after our phone call, thanking me again, and giving me his contact information.  I emailed him back, apologizing for my emotional phone call, and gave him my contact info in case the family wanted to get in contact with me.  This morning I was trying not to think about it, but not succeeding, and then I received a phone call from Mr. Chalmers to tell me that the boy was stable, didn’t have to have surgery, but had very severe internal injuries and would recover although it would take a long time.  I can’t describe how much that meant to me, to receive that phone call.  Even though I am still concerned and hope he will be okay, the fact that I know what happened will help me to move on.

J and I want to take some kind of emergency response course for civilians, so that we will know more of what to do when something like that happens.  But I know that I am going to need to be able to do my best and then leave it.  I don’t know how paramedics and medical professionals do it…how do they avoid getting personally involved?  The fact that this boy was close to H’s age might have had something to do with my response, but I can’t imagine doing things like that every day, and either not knowing what happened, or knowing if the worst thing happens.

I have so much more respect for the ski patrol after seeing them in action.  They were fast, professional, organized and efficient…as well as comforting to the victim.   I’m sure ski patrols at other mountains are great, too, but this is one more reason why I love Snowmass.  I hope no one in my family ever has cause to use them, but knowing they are there gives me a great sense of comfort.

Love Is A Verb

Twenty two years ago, I met a boy.  He made me laugh the first time we met.  He was very different from the guys I had dated, because he was so open and didn’t hide from his feelings.  In fact, from the very first day we met, I have never wondered where I stood with him, what he was thinking, or how he felt about things.  It was honest, refreshing,  and a little bit scary.  He asked me out and when I turned him down three times in a row (because I already had plans, I promise!), he kept asking.  And after a few dates, when I went on a trip with a friend, he met me at the gate when we came home…hugging me so hard I almost lost my breath!  I had just come out of a long term relationship and was pretty scarred, so I was a little hesitant at first.  But something about him just felt right.  His persistence and enthusiasm would have turned me off if it had been anyone else, but I just had a feeling that I’d better not let him get away.  Now, 22 years later, we just celebrated our 20th anniversary, and I love him more today than I did the day I married him.

It’s kind of scary when you think how little we knew each other when we got married, two years after we met.  We were in our late twenties, and had plenty of experience with other people, so we knew what we DIDN’T want and kind of knew what we DID want.  We had the same values and goals, wanted to be with each other all the time, couldn’t imagine spending our lives apart, and what I’ve discovered is key…we laughed together.  He has kind of a biting humor, and I “got” him.  He was happy when he made me laugh.  And now, 22 years later, we still laugh…a lot.  I can’t imagine a better father for our daughter, and I can’t imagine a life without him.  We have grown up together…and now we know each other better than we know ourselves.  

I was in love…I felt safe and secure with him.  I’d fallen in love before, several times, actually, but had never felt as safe in his arms as I did with him.  The last twenty years have been cram packed full of a lot of things…Buying homes, renovating homes, having a baby, school applications, homework, work, carpools, play dates, vacations…and I’m not gonna lie…some difficult moments.  My tendency when things get difficult is to withdraw and sulk…I don’t like to talk about my feelings.  J’s tendency is to fight it out to the nth degree…and even when we resolve things, he likes to talk about it.  A lot.  We’ve learned over the years that somewhere in the middle is the key.  I’ve had to work on looking inside myself to try to figure out the “why” and “what”, and then push myself to talk about it, and he’s had to learn not to beat everything into the ground.  But we rarely (I really can’t truthfully say never) go to bed angry…maybe sleep deprived after loooooong discussions…but not angry.  Everything always looks better in the morning.  We have also worked hard at making each other feel special, not an easy thing when you’re mad at them.  But we’ve learned that biting your tongue and saying or doing something nice gets you a whole lot farther than biting at each other, or sulking away in a corner.

My pastor, Pete Wilson, spoke last week in church about “How to Stay in Love”…and he blogged a portion of that sermon this week. Once again, he nailed a subject that was on my mind, since J and I just returned from a 20th anniversary trip to the Bahamas. I’d been thinking about our life together and why I think it’s so strong. He said that while we’re all naturally equipped to FALL in love, we’re ill-equipped to STAY in love. And here’s the quote that I love…

 “You don’t feel your way into an action. You act your way into a feeling. Act loving, be loving, then you’ll feel love.”

How true is that? Love is not a noun, it’s a verb.  You shouldn’t think you have to be LOVED to be LOVING, it’s the other way around.  Be loving, you’ll feel loved.  Simple.  Somehow J and I figured it out.  Some people never do.   I pray that we both continue to work as hard on making each other feel loved as we do now.  My daughter will be entering college in less than two years, so I’m sure there will be many boys in her life.  I’m so glad she heard Pete’s sermon… Hopefully she’ll remember that falling in love is the easy part, realize that you have to work to stay in love, and she’ll find the happiness and fulfillment with someone that I feel with her father.

I must be in a sharing mode, because here are some photos from the last 20 years with the love of my life, frizzy hair and all!

The birthday bash…a little late

I’m writing this post in bed, under the covers, at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’ve been here since Sunday night, with some kind of funky lower respiratory infection that I picked up this weekend. I hate being sick…can’t remember the last time I felt so bad that I stayed in bed more than a day. But my good memories of the long weekend I just spent in Colorado far outweigh the negatives of being sick.

 I turned 50 this past December, and my girlfriends, who never overlook a reason for a party, decided we needed a girl’s trip to celebrate. The fact that I already celebrated my birthday and the fact that it was two months ago meant nothing to them. We’ve done girl’s trips for the last 30 years, but the bonus this year was that I finally talked them into joining me for a ski trip to Snowmass.

Leaving my husband and my daughter for a few days is never an easy thing. Of course, I miss them like crazy, but making sure they’re taken care of adds another layer of preparation for a trip. Cooking extra food for a few days so they have plenty of leftovers to eat, grocery shopping so they don’t run out of anything they need, writing out my daughter’s schedule for my husband so that he knows where and what she’s doing. It used to be a lot more difficult. I had to arrange for transportation and/or babysitting for the times that my husband was working. Now that she drives, it’s a lot easier. I just have to worry about her remembering where she needs to be, and hope that she arrives on time and doesn’t forget anything.

They have learned over the years that I usually come back from my girlfriend trips in a great mood, energized and ready to be the best mom I can be. I can’t explain it, but being with my girlfriends, acting silly, drinking wine, talking until all hours of the night, eating junk food,…just being ME…helps me to be a better mom, and wife. I LOVE my family, and I LOVE being a stay-at-home mom. It makes me happy when I do all the mom things…shopping, cooking, planning, listening, encouraging, reminding, hugging, cuddling…all of it, but going away once or twice a year with my girlfriends is something that I treasure.

My daughter misses me, but she always loves to hear stories about the trip and laughs at our photos. She sees that good friends and memories are something to treasure, and looks forward to making her own. My husband still doesn’t quite understand the attraction of piling a bunch of girls together in a car and/or hotel room, and doesn’t understand how we can hear each other when we all talk at the same time, but he knows that I come back with a renewed appreciation for him and our life together. I’m able to remind myself that underneath the “Mom” and “Wife”…there’s still “Me”.

So far, 5 of 8 of us on this trip have the cough/fever/achy thing. One of us tested positive for H1N1, so it’s likely we all have it. Maybe it was skiing in -16 degree temperatures, staying in close quarters, snowshoe hiking up “terminator” and “anaerobic nightmare” trails, or more likely, sharing a camelback…but whatever it was, it was worth it and we’d all do it again.