Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The ghost town...

 I was taken aback when the words "ghost town" entered our conversation.  Really?  Here in Montana?  I knew instantly we should go.  We would take a new route to Bozeman, traveling the backroads.  As the distance between towns increased and the area grew more and more remote it eerily felt like we were traveling back in time.  Suddenly as we rounded a corner, the first evidence of a "town" popped into view.

 It was grand and imposing. I was channeling my inner Morticia... as I carefully walked through the overgrown sage and tumbleweeds.  How can you not flash back to the Adams Family when you see this house? 

Thankfully it was sunny and bright.  The visible modern day signs let me know it wasn't completely abandoned and neglected.  Oh for just one peek inside...  

But this was as close as I dared go...

Just a few hundred yards up the road, the town of Nevada City came into full view.  A few other cars had pulled in by this time and we were not the only ones walking about.  

While it was clear that everything was "authentic," signs of tourism abounded.  It was a young woman guarding the entrance to the buildings that told us that Nevada City was technically closed for the season.  But a film crew of college students had rented the place for the day.  While there were several areas we could not go, she did allow us access to parts not being filmed.  

Being surrounded by such rustic buildings, filled with antiques and relics of old, felt a little like Little House on the Prairie meets Gunsmoke.  

It was when the young woman pointed out the "hearse," of yesteryear that a chill went down my spine. The black stage coach even had a shelf built for a slab of ice... a cool but creepy vibe hung in the air.  

There were Saloons and mercantile stores, amongst sod-roofed houses.  

The tour guide told us we needed to come back some time when the buildings were open and we could get the full tour.  It was then that Rick asked her about paranormal activity.  I swear she lit up on the spot.  "Oh yes, if you believe in that sort of thing.  The ghost hunters swear the paranormal activity registers off the charts on their equipment."

Surprisingly we decided to leave just then.  We hastily said our goodbyes and thanked her for a glimpse of life in a mining town way back when.  "You're welcome, oh yeah, and if you are in the area we are planning a fun night for Halloween!"

I'll be thinking of you Nevada City, from the safe confines of my house- a thousand miles away- whew.  

Happy Halloween!  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where I used to live...

Before I share another stretch of our trip... I wanted to say thank you.  The response to my Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation video has been overwhelming.  I was so emotional the day it debuted and worried.  I felt exposed in ways I haven't before.  I also hadn't prepared Rick to not show it to the boys before we saw it for ourselves.  So the three of them watched it while I attended book club.  It prompted some long discussions with the boys later that night, especially Nolan who admitted he never thought he could lose his mom.  

I think it was important that we had that discussion.  We knew a time would come when we would need to find a way to approach that aspect.  Because I am overall doing well, perhaps now was the perfect timing.  I'm reminded again, always His perfect timing.

1135 miles from our doorstep is Twin Falls, Idaho- where Rick and I and the boys used to live.  Its a small-ish community of 35,000 or so and is surrounded by the mountains.  What you don't see when you travel into the city limits at night over the Perrinne Bridge, is the steep and wide canyon on either side of the snake river.  And yes, for those that remember Evel Knievel, this was the canyon he attempted to jump and failed. 

Its a breathtaking view, crossing the bridge which connects one side of the canyon to the other. We only had a few hours to spend in Twin Falls, as we were headed to Boise that afternoon. 

There are two golf courses on either side of the canyon.  We had a junior membership to the country club and lived at the golf course before the boys entered our lives.

There are waterfalls and springs all along the sides of the canyon.  

There is a walkway behind this waterfall.  The rocks are so slippery I have never attempted it, but Rick has done it.  

We did not have enough time to visit Shoshone Falls, although I've included a picture.  Often times people think these are the Twin Falls that the town is named after, but they are not.  They are however pretty spectacular!  Almost always, a rainbow can be seen.  

For nostalgia, we drove past Canyonview Psychiatric and Addiction Services Facility where I used to work.  It hasn't changed much.  By the time we left Twin Falls in 2003, most of the staff had already turned over again.  

The boys always want to see their first house.  Our tiny first house on the corner of Navajo Loop.  Gosh I loved that house.  

It was dinner time when we arrived in Boise.  Rick had a spot he wanted to visit.  Platt Gardens at the Boise Depot.  I was tired and grabbed my phone to instagram a few photos.  It was in the 70's and the sunshine felt so warm and light pouring through in breathtaking ways.

We would work all the next day shooting school day and sports photos.  We then drove all the way back to Idaho Falls, about 5 hours from Boise and started our return home.  I have just a few more photos to share... 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The big debut... my story and... The Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation.

Its not something you ever think of becoming.  You see the newspaper stories, the tv news, the drama shows, and its a mighty tug on your heart to see the story of the mom with cancer.  The show Parenthood is the latest one to portray a storyline with Breast Cancer, starring Monica Potter as Kristina Braverman.  I sat riveted to the screen Tuesday night, watching her hear the news that even though the surgeon removed all of the cancer, she had lymph node involvement and she is HER2 +  which is more aggressive, so she will now have to go through chemotherapy.  They very aptly portrayed the conflicting emotions of being told "the cancer is gone, BUT, you will need the extra reassurance of chemotherapy.  Its not very reassuring at all.

I never expected to be "that woman."  "That mom."  But I am Kristina Braverman, and she is now me. (figuratively speaking- not literally.)

I'm still vague on the details of how they found me.  But last summer I was contacted by a production team from Los Angeles, that was working on behalf of the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation.  They had heard about "my story" and wanted to know if I would be willing to share my story on camera.  They taped a discussion with me over the phone.  I sent pictures.  They had read my blog.  I finally sent them my all time favorite family photo taken by the uber talented Ria.   Within hours they officially asked to schedule a session with me.  Thank you Ria- pretty sure your talented work sealed it for them.

I had infusion the day of filming.  Another breast cancer survivor had offered the use of her house for taping.  I arrived nauseous and nervous.  It felt like I had entered the set of "The Real World." I felt compelled to share my story.  There were lights set up everywhere.  Producers everywhere.  The session was emotionally charged and somewhat intense.  It lasted for hours. I completely went "there."  I knew what I needed to say.  I knew what they needed me to say.  I was beyond vulnerable and you can hear it in my voice, read it in my face.  It's all very Hollywood- they are extremely good at what they do.

 I however, wondered if I had even said anything coherent at all.   

Last Friday, I was contacted by a representative from Edith Sanford to tell me they were re-launching their website with my story.  They will also be using some of my stuff for print media.  And after the first of the year, they will begin using my story in television spots.  

Last night after book club, I came home and Rick told me my story was up and running at the Edith Sanford website.

I was completely unprepared for the emotional punch it delivered.

In a bit I will link to it. 

But please let me explain something first.  

It brought tears to my eyes.  I somehow stepped outside of myself and watched with sheer raw emotion flowing through me.  It took me right back to that vulnerable place.

I said hard things.  And I know if its hard for me to hear and see, it may have that impact on YOU as well.  If you are at all sensitive, truly decide whether or not you want to watch.  Its raw and real.  

And if you do watch?

Please understand, I am doing really well right now.  What I portray here daily on my blog is truly me and what I choose to focus on.  And some things have changed.  The boys are coping as well as they can.  We all are.  The story is a snapshot of our daily existence. 

In the end, I am extremely grateful that I got to say what was on my heart and mind.  Everyone should have the chance just one time to tell their story.  How lucky for me, I got to tell a part of mine.  

The video can be found at the link below- I am wearing my wig, but you will see me right away. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

hope on my doorstep...

Hope showed up on my doorstep yesterday in a hot pink pumpkin with Hope written across the front of it and a sparkly ribbon affixed to it.  

Spying it on my doorstep as I scooted out the door on my way to infusion started my day off with a huge smile.  Thank you whoever you are for my pink pumpkin of hope!

At the infusion center I was treated to a copy of this book to read:

"no lumps, thank you," Filled with the artistic photography of Meg Speilman Peldo, and uplifting, and humorous stories of breast cancer survivors, I fully delighted in every aspect of the book, recognizing so many of the women quoted throughout the book. 

I found it clever, creative, honest, witty and classy.  You can read about it here. Proceeds go to support the Embrace Cancer Survivorship program at Sanford Health.  

While at infusion, my friend Angie's sweet mom, Laurel called wondering if we'd like dinner.  Oh boy would we!  We've been treated numerous times to Laurel's baking and cooking.  Everything is made from scratch and it always tastes like home and comfort.  

Home made rolls... they are already gone this morning...

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and carrots.  I ate an entire plate full, before I finally caved and crawled into bed for a nap. 

I was glad to have gotten some tasty food in me early yesterday, because my old friend nausea decided to visit last night.  Blech.  

I just never know if or when side effects will crop up.  But when you consider I have done some form of infusion once every three weeks for 18 months straight, its bound to catch up with you at some point. 

But despite infusions and cancer and side effects, what remains a constant in my life, is how much you all find ways to show love and support me.  The day before we left on our trip I received a package in the mail- from GERMANY. 

My dear friend Mimi crocheted this beautiful teal poncho for me!  She packaged it with German candies and cookies for the boys.  It took months to get here- but I was so excited when it finally arrived.  

Thank you Mimi- I am touched beyond words.  Mimi and I speak different languages.  She does an amazing job of deciphering and communicating in English.

What I have discovered though, is that love needs no translation.   Whether its a pink pumpkin on my doorstep, a tasty meal, or a package from Germany- the love shines through always.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fully returning to me...

After just two quick days we left Yellowstone Park on our way to Twin Falls, Idaho.  Its awe inspiring to realize we covered maybe 5 hours worth of driving the third day,  but the scenery was vastly different round every bend.  

We stopped for one last waterfall of Yellowstone Park-  Cascade Falls. 

 I noticed this spot across a bridge down from where we parked.  I took my time walking.  I shot a few pics and then was drawn to cross the road.  I had to climb down a steep embankment.  Suddenly I dropped below the bridge and found myself in a valley, completely alone.  This wasn't a spot with paths or clearly marked areas for visitors.  But it was breathtaking and tranquil.  And I noticed, my breathing wasn't as labored.  We had descended some in elevation and the difference it made on my lungs was noticeable.  It was both an understated but powerful moment to feel like I was fully returning to the me I knew myself to be.  

There was a bit of a haze that was following us as we crossed into Wyoming and glimpsed the granite peaks of the Grand Tetons.  I also underexposed my photos a tad, so I did bump up the saturation on these.  

The sunshine was so bright and warm, the air crisp and water so blue and green.  Jenny Lake has always been a favorite of ours.  

We are accustomed to seeing more snow in the mountains and were surprised that very little snow has fallen yet this year.

I flew down the stairs this time.  Breathing easy, and longing to be on the rocks next to the water.

Reluctantly we left the lake and headed to Antelope Flats.  We were in search of "The most 
photographed barn in America."  Moulton Barn on Mormon row.  It just doesn't disappoint.  

We stopped in Jackson Hole for lunch.  It was in the 70's and we were shedding our jackets and long sleeves quickly.

Pumpkin-spiced latte... oh yes...

The park in the center of town has elk antlers at its entrances.  

We drove through Teton pass and crossed over into Idaho.  The sunshine and golden light following us as we traveled through Swan Valley along the Snake River, and on into Twin Falls.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mammoth Hot Springs

You would think if you chose to go to Mammoth Hot Springs, you'd be going to see- well, hot springs, right?  You would, unless, you'd traveled through the town the night before.  And as you crept through the winding streets, bright beady eyes began freezing in your headlights.  We stopped and pulled over expecting to find deer.  But no, the piercing and glowing eyes, were those of a herd of elk- walking along the main street.  Yep, right on the boulevard, next to the Hotel.  The elk were everywhere.

I had to go back to see what our headlights hinted at the night before.

The town of Mammoth Hot Springs, is very picturesque, and yet deceiving in some ways.

These little red signs were everywhere, and if you look closely, so were mounds of elk droppings.

The historic hotel.  Rick had tried to get a room but it was booked.

The "park" across from the hotel that on first glance looks empty.

But then, as I switch to my long lens, I spot them.  And they have spotted us.  A crowd is beginning to gather across the street.  

And then we see him.  A bull elk.  And the female cows are in rut.  They are loudly calling out.  And he is whipping them into a frenzy.  

And that is when the park ranger comes screaming down the street with lights flashing on his car.  And he hollers at the crowd gathering.  "If the bull comes across the street, run for the store! Or get in your cars, but remember their feet and antlers pierce right through the metal of the car, you aren't safe in your car. Stay back!"  I am only a few feet away from where he stands and he graciously answers our questions.  The bull elk is 5 or 6 years old which is old in elk years.  He has 7 splits on his antlers.  The cows are just as feisty as the bull is.  The elk spend several days in the city at times, but go off to the mountains for days in a row too.  He said they have had 44 incidents to date this year, with elk damaging cars and injuring people.

It takes me awhile to realize, his job isn't to protect us from the elk, as much as it is to protect the habitat of the elk from us.  The elk are in charge, not the people.  When you live in a National Park like Yellowstone, every piece of nature is protected.  As a human, you certainly learn your place.

I was smitten with the whole show unfolding before our eyes.  I found myself so engrossed, fear played no factor.  I respectfully kept my distance, but was delighted with how close my camera could get me.

Back and forth across the path goes the bull elk.

And then he begins to chase and we prepare to take cover...

But then...  the cows decide enough already, and begin to cross the street right by where I am standing.  

She calmly turns her head calling...

And baby steps clumsily off the curb and follows along...

Momma number two stops to call out as well, and soon...  (the entire town just sort of comes to a standstill.) 

baby number two approaches ever so timidly...

And the bull is still chasing...

He gets right to the curb as the park ranger tells us to get ready to head inside... 

He gives one big call...

Stands there in his majesty... 

And then heads back into the park.  

The babies hurry off the opposite way to catch up with their moms.

We took that as our sign to head back to the lodge.  Through the car window we got a quick glimpse of the hot springs.  What you don't see are all the steps going up to the viewing area.  Another trip, another day perhaps.  There is so much more to the park to explore, but we are leaving early the next morning.  

We collapse in bed early, skipping dinner altogether and sleep with the sounds of Old Faithful spouting off throughout the night.  

Rascal Flatts, Stand

"Everytime you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into place"

Slowly I am getting back to me... I just don't know it yet... but the pieces are starting to fall.  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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