Grip

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Last week, my cousin Mark posted a photo of himself with my great uncle John and great aunt Jean at their assisted living facility. His caption for the photo was essentially that John had taken a turn for the worse and they called in hospice care for him as his end of life was near. I could tell looking at the photo it was the right call. I won’t describe the look on John’s face, it reminded me of the look on my grandmother’s face shortly before she died from lung cancer. If you’ve spent any time near the dying, it is probably a look you know well and can hold in your mind. Friday morning I woke up and got ready for work, not checking the family group on Facebook until shortly before 11 when I have my first break for the day. John had died Thursday night nearly 95 years after he was born. In over 300 years, no Taylor in that family line has lived longer.

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My grandfather and John were identical twin brothers and even though when I was growing up we didn’t see John and Jean very often for whatever reason, John always held a place in my mind that was up there with Grandfather. When Jim died, John’s house was the place that everyone gathered after the funeral and I remember being together with the extended family and holding those happy memories close has been a way of honoring John and Jim, and Gramma Betty and Aunt Jean (who has Alzheimer’s and isn’t really aware that John is no longer with her). The last time that I saw John and Jean we were up in the Paradise Valley for a family reunion. John was wheelchair bound after a stroke and Jean was physically present but already mostly mentally in a different world. John’s mind was still sharp, he struggled with clear speech from the stroke, and there were some family conversations happening that were really interesting to be a part of.

That reunion was also the second time that I had cooked for the whole clan. The first time was after Grandfather’s funeral and I made enough pizza dough to cook for the 25 or so family members that were gathered in the house on Harvard Ave. I was working with my Aunt Joanie, also probably the last time that I had an opportunity to cook with her before we lost touch. I really didn’t see it at the time, but perhaps that was my memorial for John before he passed. Feeding the family in memory of those who’ve gone before. We even used the sourdough starter that Grandfather started in the 1960’s, something my uncle Pete had brought up for sourdough waffles, another family tradition and one that my uncle Paul suggested as a memorial for John this weekend. I don’t have my kids with me this weekend but last weekend we did make sourdough waffles for breakfast and the leftovers are in the freezer.

Friday night, I went over to check out Matty’s collab with Meat Paw Studios Thicc Boiz 2 and then over to Dan’s to see Courtney and Sarah Ruth and Dahlia and Rachel play in the Improv Lotto. Basic premise is that musicians were grouped randomly together and then performed an improvised set. I stayed out until after 2 and was able to make it to a 9:30 climb the next morning. My right arm as been a little funky since I slipped off a foot hold on Monday, I kept things easy and was just a little sore after. It was really nice to climb with Chris and his GF for the first time in a long while. They were the first ones to bring me into the climbing gym, Chris used his guest pass to get me in and it was fun to show the progress that I’ve made as a climber in that time.

Had lunch with dad and Suzanne, talked a little about John and his life and then had dinner with them again for Suzanne’s birthday which was early this week. Next week is packed but I’ve got the house clean, food prepped and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running come Monday. It ain’t Monday yet.

Care

Before you start reading this, you should start the video and then continue to read.

I have been trying to go the grocery store on weekends, this weekend it didn’t happen so all I had in the house were four cans of assorted beans, some brown/wild rice mix and a little bit of a kale mix that I had from the previous week along with the leftover tomatoes from the pizza I made when the kids were over. I mixed up the beans and the tomatoes and cooked them off on Sunday afternoon along with some rice and have been eating pretty much that for the last couple of days.

Monday I climbed for around two hours and then again on Tuesday after running 5 miles in the heat of the day so I decided I should probably pick up a couple more things at the grocery store. Today I got ahold of the kids on the drive home from work and swung by the store to pick up some more fresh veggies to make some of my favorites. Cabbage and cilantro with lime and salt, roasted sweet potatoes and zucchini and a bunch of kale, food enough to last through the rest of the week. I was shredding up the cabbage and it made me remember some things from the past that hadn’t really landed.

When I first started dating my ex, even after we were first married (pretty close on the heels of dating), we used to go to this Mexican place in Tyler on the square called Don Juans. I’d never been there, I didn’t grow up in Texas and while I liked most Mexican food, this was the first place I’d been to with more authentic style food. I was vegetarian and she was vegan (for about another month or two) and we would go in and get tacos made with cabbage and cilantro, cheese and avocado. I don’t remember what else was in them but I do remember the cabbage and cilantro slaw, I’ve made some version of it ever since. So here I am shredding a head of cabbage and remembering those early days of our relationship.

The rest of the veg is in the oven and I’m playing though some old songs that I’ve used as therapy for longer than I’d like to admit. I was singing through this Damien Jurado song called “I Am Still Here" and was surprised to get a little choked up when I was singing the line “here is a photo from our wedding day.” Not because I shouldn’t have any feelings about that, I have the picture in my mind. Black and white, I had long hair and glasses, looked like a John Lennon knock off and she had micro-bangs and a white dress. We got married at her parents house that had just been built, my grandfather performed the ceremony in the living room.

I know there was a point when I first heard this song many years ago where I had the perspective of the character in the song, I felt emotionally abandoned and tried over and over to find a way to rectify the void that had grown between us. It wasn’t something that anyone did, it was just there and eventually I stopped trying to fix the void and pretended that it wasn’t there and wasn’t important and didn’t have anything to do with how I felt, it was the way it was.

My dad would always talk about how my grandfather “tied a good knot” and for a few years, that was my motivation to make things work. It kept being something that I held onto when things got rough through any number of things. I still think about that phrase, “a good knot,” and it really makes me think about how my perspective on the world has changed since then. I had recently left the church for good but I was still trying to live in a way that fit a morality and worldview that I was breaking away from, I think I am still trying to reprogram my mind away from some of those thought patterns and behaviors. Those knots are deep and will take time to untie.

Quiet

Sunday Courtney and Conor stopped by the house to check things out and say “hi". The kids were pretty excited to have some people in the house that they hadn’t seen in a long time and Courtney brought her instant camera and took some nice pictures of me and the kids. My son took a couple of pictures too and it is really nice, and hard, to look at the fridge and see those pictures smiling back at me.

The weekend with the kids was over pretty quickly on Sunday when their mother came to pick them up. Things were less weird than the last time that she came to pick them up and I count that as a good thing. Trying to maintain at least a polite relationship with her has been something I’ve tried to focus on because we are working together to raise these kiddos, even if I only see them 9-10 days a month during the school year. It was hard to see them go and I got emotional for the first time in four or five days. I know they’ll be back and I can talk to them when I want to but it is still tough to see them walk out the door and know that I won’t see them for over a week.

I had planned to make it to the Sundown fundraiser show on Sunday evening to support Courtney and George but by the time the kids left, I wasn’t really in a spot where sitting for two hours around some emotionally heavy work would have been a good plan. Autumn had invited me over for a cookout thing and I decided that was going to be a better fit for where I was at emotionally in that particular moment. Honestly, until I got to the cookout I was still planning to try and make it over to see the show at Aura but after sitting for a few minutes, realized I was where I needed to be. Light conversation and some drinks were what I needed after the struggle of getting the kids ready to go and trying to be ok with seeing them walk out the door.

Stayed out till around 9:30, got home and fell asleep on the couch for a while meaning that today when I woke up I was pretty tired and didn’t really feel like running but I did it anyway. Last year I had started run-commuting a few times a week and really started to like getting my runs at the beginning and end of the day. Today I drove to work and ran a couple of miles at Southlakes before heading in to shower and get ready for work. My stomach was a little sour this morning, brisket and such the night before isn’t what my stomach is used to at this point, but I made the miles work for me. They day itself was pretty uneventful. It never ceases to amaze me how the dynamics of a class can either be really good or bad depending on scheduling and I saw a little bit of everything today. We are working in all of my classes on building an ensemble feeling and so far things are moving in the direction that I’d like to see them head for the rest of the year.

I’ve been trying to focus on doing my job and going home and being ok with that. I don’t really spend any time talking to other adults at work which has been both good and bad, especially if I don’t have any plans when I get off work I might go all day without talking with someone and that can be difficult. I normally thrive when I’m building relationships with other people and I feel like I’m in a spot where I don’t know how to invite people into my life, such as it is. I always appreciate the people that are willing to just reach out and ask me to come do things with them, big groups, small groups it doesn’t really make a difference right now.

I’m going to head up and climb for a bit and then try to wrap my head around the next few weeks for work and timing and get my goals for the next few months lined up with regard to personal growth and the direction I want to head in the coming years. Lots to ponder and process.

Luck Dragon

Yesterday was the first day back at work with all staff on campus and I woke up at 3:00 am and struggled to go back to sleep. I finally did but when I woke up, it was 6:30 am and I wanted to leave by 7:15 am so I didn’t get the opportunity to sit and get focused for the day. I got to work and dropped my stuff off in the classroom and went to the front office.

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When I was student teaching, my mentor teacher gave me the advice to make friends with the office staff because they have the power to make life great or not so great, I chose the former. Yesterday morning, when I went up to the office to check in, the secretary was sitting there and asked me about my horrible summer. Last week when I had the kids with me, we were up on campus and she’d asked how things were and I didn’t want to talk about it in front of the kids so I just gave the “pretty horrible” response. So when she asked me that question yesterday, I was overcome. I started to choke up and told her I’d talk to her about it later. I walked down the hallway back to my classroom with tears in my eyes and, after an “are you ok?” from our LSSP, I made it back to my space. I took a minute to gather myself and then walked back to the front office to talk.

The day was mostly in meetings but we did have a pep rally thing that we needed to have actual pants on for. I drove back to my house to change and hanging out on the porch was a little green lizard. Matt told me what kid it was but I was still in my head and I don’t remember what he said it was. Either way, a little lizard friend made me feel a little bit more like things were settling in. We drove down the street to the high school for the thing and then back to campus for a bit to unpack and then lunch.

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Around 3:15, I drove over to the Fine Arts Annex to pick up a safe for my classroom and met a new theatre teacher in the district and talked to her a bit about working with MS students and how to choose appropriate material etc. It was funny how quickly I slipped back into “professional” mode after being off all summer. I got back to campus and headed home for a run. It was in the high 90’s and probably too hot but I did it anyway. When I got up to Bolivar and McKinney, I saw in the parking lot a burned out pickup truck and a fire truck that had just extinguished the flames. It was surreal. I ran back home and got ready to climb with Natasha and Jack for a bit. There were a couple other teachers Natasha knew and a friend of theirs I’ve met a few times hanging out climbing as well.

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Climbing with much more experienced climbers is really interesting because everything is doable. Confidence and trust in oneself are essential to growing, in life and in climbing, so having some cheerleaders on the ground is enough to break through mental blocks on a route in a lot of cases. I kept going after this yellow route that I’ve been working on for a while and was able to break through some of the places where I’ve been stuck but was still unable to complete it. I’ll have to got back tonight and see if I can nail it on the first go.

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I took some bread by Kayley and Lauren’s place as gratitude for Kayley smudging the new place and had a nice chat with them about life and such. It was nice to be out in someone else’s space for a bit. Lots of neat art deco pieces and plenty of beautiful flowers/plants that Lauren arranges. When I got back to my place, hanging out in the front yard was a black cat. It was sitting there looking back at me and not moving for about five minutes. I’m allergic to cats but have always liked them and this cat just chilling in the yard was calming. I’ve had a lot of anxiety surrounding going back to work, for a few reasons, and yesterday was a challenge but I made it through. Each day after that should, hopefully, be less about the anxiety and more about the work. It’s all about the work.

Crane Wife

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My friend Bess shared this essay and I wanted to leave it here too. You should read it.

I’ve been having a pretty rough week emotionally. My kids have been out of town on vacation to the beach so we haven’t been able to coordinate our usual daily phone calls with grandparents and swimming. I didn’t know what to expect with this sort of arrangement, I don’t think anyone really does, and it’s been a drag on my overall sense of making progress.

I was actually productive today, I got utilities and Wi-Fi lined up for the new place and started reading on the play that we are going to do instead of the play I didn’t have the emotional energy to write this summer. It could be a combination of missing my kids and the concrete steps towards moving into a new phase of life or something in the air but after making those arrangements things went a little sideways. Riding out the turbulence requires an emotional reserve I don’t really have at my fingertips, things like the essay above help me to keep perspective.

I’m going to climb in a bit and then run/volunteer for the social run and be around a bunch of people this evening, something that I am trying to be good about. I’ve been isolating the past couple of days and I know that it isn’t really healthy for me for too long.

Our remounting of Johnson Branch Trail Race is this weekend, I’ll probably be working on that for the next few days and then next week is moving week.

One bag only

Sunday was Laura’s birthday so we all slept in a bit and then Geoff made breakfast. I sat on the porch and read a bit while he went to the store and Laura and I had a chance to talk a bit. Geoff came back and made breakfast; bacon, eggs, hash browns and coffee. 

After we cleaned up from breakfast, we headed out to the Rattlesnake Wilderness Recreation Area and the trailhead was packed. It had been raining off and on for the last week or so, people were ready to be outside. We hiked around 5 miles and dipped our toes in the creek that gives the area its name. They’ve had a lot of snow this year in the mountains and the creek was high and very cold. Geoff kept trying to convince us that swimming was a great idea, no one took him up on it. 

We headed back and I was more than a little sore from the race on Saturday. We ate a little lunch and then read, played some music and napped until later in the evening when Laura’s friends from grad school came over for dinner. Geoff and Laura made a little bit of shade in the back yard with some speaker stands and sheets so we ate outside. Chicken legs, grilled veggies, salad and fruit and some cake to wrap things up. 

After dinner, we headed out on a walk to the Scott Street Bridge. It stretches over a train yard and gave us an incredible view of the sunset. This far north, the sun doesn’t really set until after 10PM so we got back pretty late and watched a movie before turning in. 

Monday, Laura had to work so we walked over to this cute little breakfast place and ate before she headed in to work. Geoff and I headed up north to Flathead Lake and had a light lunch on the lake at The Raven. Geoff had played some gigs there in the past and it had a dock where boats could pull in. 

After we spent some time on the lake, we headed back to Bozeman to work on the sourdough pizza I started in the morning before we left. The afternoon was pretty relaxed, I was still stiff from the race so we didn’t tool around on the bikes or anything.

Dinner was the sourdough pizza and some salad along with leftover cake from Laura’s birthday on Sunday. We hung out at the apartment and took it easy before watching a little Stranger Things and turning in ahead of the early wake up on Tuesday. 

Geoff and I got things going around 5AM for the drive in to Bozeman and we went up over the continental divide on the way through the valley. Things were a little wet but mostly uneventful until we got into Bozeman and had breakfast at Lot G, a modern breakfast place in a small development with a brewery, some offices and a kombucha bar. Drew met us for breakfast as well and then we headed to the airport.

I was really unsure about how this trip was going to go given the current circumstances but I’m glad that I decided to go ahead and come. The race was brutal, the time spent with family was invaluable and while there were certainly some low moments, it was good to be up in the last best place for a bit. 

Bangtail Divide 38k

One of the reasons for the timing of this trip was to run the Bangtail Divide 38k just outside of Bozeman. I’ve run one other race in the Bozeman area, the Jim Bridger 10 Mile with my cousin Bea a couple years ago before the family reunion. That race was stupid hard, for a flatlander, because it had 2800’ of gain in a four mile switchback section that really made those glutes burn. Well, yesterday’s race had 6 miles of switchbacks and 3600’ of gain.

It started out with a mile down a park road before turning up the mountain. When racing at elevation, I always have to keep in mind that I don’t live at elevation and most of the other runners do. The race started at 5500’ and went up over 7000’ so I wasn’t really feeling it as much as in the past. Later in the race I certainly noticed my heart rate going a bit higher than normal. I was right behind a lady with a red pack and in front of a lady with trekking poles. They were commenting that I was doing well considering, and then we were through the first aid station.

Coming in to the aid station can be a bump in spirits and this one was special. Nikki Kimball, world class ultra runner, lives in the area and I heard this voice that I recognized from her films and interviews. I turned around and sure enough, she was standing behind me with gummy bears. I don’t always acknowledge big name people but this time I had to. I said, “Nikki, you are a fucking badass.” She started laughing and I made sure to say something to the other volunteers. As I ran out of aid, they all started laughing and that was the highlight of the race.

We kept climbing for another couple miles and then went through some Alpine meadows and more climbing. Dropped down some fast switchbacks, more climbing and then a final bomb down even faster switchbacks to the end. The final four miles were downhill and I can feel it this morning.

After the race, I went back to Drew’s place and changed for the drive to Missoula. We rolled into Missoula around 4:30 and I jumped in a van with Geoff to head down to Hamilton for his gig. I’ve never had the chance to see him play with his hot swing band and we chilled out at the Bitter Root Brewery and they played a couple sets.

We got back to Missoula around 10:30 and then sacked out in the living room of Geoff and Laura’s apartment.

Mountains

I’m sitting in my hotel room, it is almost 9pm MST and I’m pretty wiped. Two planes, driving around Bozeman with my cousin Drew and meeting his GF and her kiddo were all just part of what went on today. I almost didn’t make this trip because of all the things that are going on but I’m glad I did, so far.

I’ve tried to establish a routine of calling my kids everyday around the same time and today was one of the first days that I couldn’t due to travel. I did finally get ahold of them later in the day, much later in their day due to the time difference. I have made an effort to “be okay” when I talk to my kids so that they won’t worry and tonight was hard to keep it together on the phone. Probably partially due to the fact I’ve been up since 4:15 am and my body is thinking it’s an hour later and just being out of my element.

I think the overwhelming thing about this trip is that I’m in denial about how well I’m doing emotionally. I keep telling myself I’m doing better and trying to do better and making good choices and it doesn’t really help. Time? Possibly. Talk? Possibly. It’s ok to not be ok and I guess that means I’m ok?

Pictures now.