Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life List #5 - On Top of the World, part 2

(see part one of the story here)

Chris and I spent the night before in Fairplay - arriving at nearly midnight and waking after a restless night at 3:30. I'd brought instant oatmeal which we ate liberally loaded with nuts and drank hot tea. I desperately hoped this would be enough to power us through the start of the day. We had a store's worth of REI gear on our persons. I'd bought anything and everything - I had no idea what to expect.

Was I actually going to climb a fourteener?

At 5:00 am we met Mike (my boss) and our friend Brian at the Kite Lake trailhead. It was dark, and Chris and I were quickly outfitted with borrowed headlamps, gloves and poles. All of my extra weight had been redistributed among our crew. Adrenaline quickly replaced my knotted stomach and my four-hours of sleep addled anxiety.

OMG. I was going to climb a fourteener.

The first thing that Mike told us was that we were going to go slow. Really really slow. Even slower than I thought I had ever gone before. So slow that we would be frustrated and want to go faster. That slow. Did we get it? Slow.

The second thing was to remember to breathe. Breathe deeply and continuously. This might sound elementary but have you ever noticed when exercising that you sometimes forget to breathe? It is key as you start gaining vertical feet.

Admiring the ice crystals that were everywhere.
As we started getting closer to the ascent part (the trail was very long), I began to notice something particularly troubling. Everything was coated with a thin sheet of ice. By everything, I mean the trail had turned from dirt to rocks. And the rocks were solid black ice. Yikes.

Ping pong goodness
The darkness finally eased into light and someone commented that it was like being inside a ping-pong ball. We were in a cloud of fog - or maybe just a cloud - we were already at about 12,000 feet.

Um, hello. I was freakin' climbing a fourteener!

See the ice coating my hair. My hairsicles. It was everywhere.
We stopped at 13,000 feet to check pulse ox rates. Mine had slipped to 85. Breathe, I was told. Don't talk, just breathe.

Nanuk of the Mosquito Range
We powered up with electrolyte gels and water as we hit 14,000 feet. Another check of the pulse ox showed mine back up to 95. It never fell below 94 for the remainder of the climb.

Don't be fooled by the sun. These rocks were icy.
One foot after another and all of a sudden, we were there. We were at the top of Mt. Democrat at 14,155 ft. We'd climbed two miles and 2,300 vertical feet. That's a 20% grade. My pulse ox was 95, my heart rate was about 145.

I had just climbed a fourteener!

But wait! There's more...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life List #5 - On Top of the World, part 1

In August of 2008, my Sunday night small group spontaneously decided to try to climb Mt. Bierstadt. A noble attempt, but we were sadly turned away from the summit - or even close to the summit - by rain and snow. In August.

A September climb of Mt. Elbert yielded similar results - hail stopping us only 100 feet higher than on Bierstadt. Mountain climbing was hard. I was painfully slow, struggled with the heart rate in my nerveless heart, and it seemed as though the weather was always against us. I decided then and there that mountain climbing was not for me. Long hikes, yes. Vertical feet? No.

Fast forward to September 2011. My boss calls me into his office. What's your work out regimen, he asked. You in good shape?

Not particularly phased by the question - we are a fit office and workout routines are a common conversation topic - I launch into a litany of my cardio and strength training regimen. Sometime over the spring I'd amped up my fitness schedule so I was excited to talk about it. Something just clicked into place with me and exercise over the past several months, but that is a topic for another post.

Great, he said. How about on Thursday we climb a fourteener?

Say what?!? 

My initial reaction was no. No. NO. I had a heart transplant a mere five years prior. Had this been forgotten? And what about all this business about my speed? I was slow...way slow... excruciatingly slow. Oh, and my heart rate is cray-zee. Like interval training - it would speed up to the top of my target range while climbing and then I would need to slow down until it hit the bottom before starting the process all over again. It took at least an hour for it to settle at a steady rate. I was a hot mess on a mountain plus, most importantly, I had never even been over 12,000 feet outside of a car.

So of course I said yes.

(to be continued...)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Link Round Up: Head Explosions

I am on instant message all day at work. Occasionally Chris likes to brighten my day by sending me the most adorable pictures he can find. A smattering of what was sent this week.

And the winner...oh yes... the absolute winner...

Excuse me while I go pick up pieces of my brain.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Story of a Window

An ordinary casement window...

Meets a very large saw.

Big hole in the wall.

Big hole in the ground.

Ordinary a lovely escape window!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Murmuration

I have seen the pigeons in downtown Boulder swoop and fly from building to building in packs. I know that pigeons are germ infested city rats, but you can't help but see the joy in their aerial tumblings. But this takes the cake. Absolutely stunning.

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Monday, November 7, 2011

On Not Going Gently

So, what happened in there, the night of my biVAD surgery?

I was sitting with my surgeon, Dr. Awesome, almost a year after my transplant. He was late to the appointment by almost 90 minutes - his last of the day -  but had called ahead to his nurse to ask if I would mind waiting. We were there, ostensibly, to talk about my wiring.

My chest wires to be specific. The ones that sort of look like twist ties wrapping around my sternum were poking me from the inside. None of the options were worth the inconvenience of living with being poked so we continued on to other subjects. 

I actually knew full well what had happened on the night of November 7, 2006. I'd managed to get my hands on my medical records and had pored over them with the help of Google to translate the medical terminology. I'd read the timeline of events and frankly, there in the stark black and white of the doctors' messy handwriting, it hadn't seemed nearly as dire as I had heard. 

He told me the surgery had started out well, especially for someone who was hanging by a thread, in multiple organ failure and on a balloon pump with a heart beat that was as steady as a popcorn machine. Once the biVAD was in, by all accounts, the operation was a success. 

And that's when something bad happened. My blood wouldn't clot. I wouldn't stop bleeding. They did everything, he said. I was loaded with as many clotting agents as probably exist. They talked about just leaving me open to monitor, but in the end decided to close me up and hope for the best. All in all, I received enough transfusions to replace my body's blood at least three times over. He stopped talking for a second. It was out of our hands, he finally said.

It was your will to live.

Even now, I still have a hard time finding the words to describe what happened that day. The day where everything bad that can happen to a heart happened. The day that my family (and friends) pulled together around me like a sweater. The day that God did something that I can never deny.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
- Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Link Round Up - Crafty Goodness

Oh, for an extra hour in the day! There would be no limit to what us crafty types would accomplish!

Of course, sleep is always a terrific option too :-)

  • For those of you like Chris and me who think the crust is the best part, these lattice cookies look to die for.
  • Can art be practical? Yes! Especially if you have tons of thread laying around. Make them beautiful with this framed spool holder.
  • Just what I need...another afghan to make. But this Missoni pattern and the colors have already spurred me to look through my yarn stash.
  • Once we figure out how to bring more light into the hallway, these herb planters are going up. It's not like we don't have plenty of mason jars.
  • This painting is definitely going to be made for the new office. I planned it even before I picked the office colors.
I can tell I am going to be busy when the choir season ends.

Book Review: The Diamond Age

I was one of those kids whose nose was always in a book. Summer vacations were heaven - Lisa and I would check out books by the dozen and plow through them book after book in the heat of the day. Even on vacation to visit my grandparents in Illinois, we would borrow my uncle's library card to feed our voracious book appetites.

I sort of fell away from reading for many years. I don't know why...perhaps it was time or access or maybe I was burnt out after college. But sometime a few years ago, I decided to get back into books by reading one book a month. It was a success and I was re-hooked.

This was my first Neal Stephenson book. Chris is a huge fan and always engrossed in one of his many ginormous trilogies - The Diamond Age had the benefit of being a standalone novel and definitely not as long as the others. The only other cyberpunk novel I've read was Neuromancer by William Gibson which I enjoyed but found confusing. I was hoping that the somewhat simpler sounding premise would prove a bit more accessible.

Since I want to get on with my review, rather than wasting time trying to summarize this intricate novel, I will just borrow from the very simplistic book description on Amazon:
Set in twenty-first century Shanghai, it is the story of what happens when a state-of-the-art interactive device falls in the hands of a street urchin named Nell. Her life—and the entire future of humanity—is about to be decoded and reprogrammed…
Stephenson is a world builder. He drops you into what feels like a story already in progress and uses this structure to guide the reader through the intricate society of this 21st century future. There is lots of technology - most of it nanotechnology which is as common as germs are today. Actually, the nanotechnology has replaced the germs. There is also seemingly magical sounding technology - like paper that automatically populates with your newspaper and/or media choices. Hrm. Sounds sort of familiar already.

There is so much world and major character building happening I found the story starting with a bang only to be bogged down in the mire of description. But through all this, Stephenson is laying the foundation so he can effortlessly take the reader through his world when the action starts. Once Nell finds the Primer (the interactive device referenced in the book description), both she and the story begin to come to life.

The book pleasantly (even if the developments themselves are harsh) meanders its way through what seem to be unrelated events and after a time, I found myself completely engrossed in this world. I was excited to see the next chapter of Nell's life and also how the other young girls of her age reacted to their own copies of the Primer.

However, somewhere along the line, it seems as though Stephenson forgot that along with this crazy world of nanosites, Source Feeds and mysterious hive mind societies that live under the ocean, there is also a plot happening. Somewhere towards the end, he brings into the picture a conflict in the making that (to me) had no foundation laid - nothing like what he had been doing up until that point. In (literally) 50 pages he introduces these new characters, Nell's pivotal moment and also wraps up the whole story. Without spoiling it, a little bit of background on the Fists would've been nice and also would've helped build the tension since apparently Nell's situation was quite dangerous, unbeknownst to this reader. After 450 pages of details and progressive tension, this quick finish felt flat to me. Even the tone changed to sort of a third party objective tone and while the ending is somewhat tidy, I still turned the page expecting a new chapter.

All in all, I would give the book 4/5 stars for great world building and character development and for an original exciting plot. It loses the final star for the sort of haphazardly thrown together ending.

Previous book:  The Book Thief  by Marcus Zusak [not reviewed].
Current book: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some Random Sentences on a Thursday Night

Sitting down at 11:30 and expecting brilliance in a blog post is a huge disappointment. But it is the whole point of NaBloPoMo. Just write!

For the third time in an hour, my dog has randomly started barking at something only she can hear. Shut up, dog.

So glad that we moved from the stuffy rehearsal room to the choir loft at the church for Sine Nomine practice. Instant morale boost - you can't help but sound terrific in that space.

Airing our dirty laundry - there is clean laundry all over the house. The couch is covered with towels and the bedroom has three overflowing baskets of clothes. If we had more baskets, we would never fold clothes.

I am about ready to finish The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Look for a review here soon. I have nine books to read by the end of the year to make my goal. I am looking for recommendations on short interesting books. Leave 'em if you got 'em.

Really ready for the weekend. Anyone else?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Life List #30 - My Hair

"Your hair is so long!"

"Yes, I know. I call it my Second Chance Hair."

What is second chance hair? Simply put, it is the hair you get after a traumatic medical event has taken your original(ish) hair. When I left the hospital in 2006, be it the combination of terrible eating, intense stress, lots and lots of new drugs and lack of sleep, I lost a ton of hair. I remember staying to my transplant coordinator - "how can I be growing hair everywhere else and losing it on my head. I am turning into a man!!!"

I was really hopped up on steroids at the time.

My heart failure hair was thin and dry. It was long in my youth but after a while, shorter became the obvious (and much better) way of keeping it.

Then I had it cut super super short in the hospital. It was a great cut, and far easier to keep it out of the blood and the ick and the lack of washing. In the final six weeks I was in the hospital, my hair was washed a whopping 3-4 times. And that included two open heart surgeries. Yikes.

But then it started growing back - darker, curlier and thicker than before. Everyone had an opinion, but it was always...

Hey look at your second chance hair.

Mothers told me that their hair after pregnancy was different. Cancer survivors said the same after chemo. My hair was a visible reminder of the beauty of my heart. Was it increased blood flow? Cyclosporin? Or a secret gift?

#30 - Grow my hair to my waist.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo - Day One

Hey look! I have a blog! And wow, no updates since June 2010? Tsk, tsk...for shame, Hassell.

So for some reason, November in the interwebs tends to be a "National To Something Every Day" month. There is Gratitude Months (a fine idea, I might add), NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which I seriously considered) and then NaBloPoMo. Writing a blog post a day sounded less daunting than writing the 1600 words per day required to get a novel done and slightly more challenging than writing one thing per day for which I am grateful.

Not that I am not grateful. As a matter of fact, several of these blog posts over the month of November will probably be brimming with gratitude. Cuz it is November and that's how I roll, people.

Anyway, welcome back to Best Day of Life. Let's see where this all goes.