Monday, March 16, 2015

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city." ~George Burns

I consider myself lucky to have had the privilege of knowing my four grandparents, three of my great grandparents, and even some great great uncles. I really do mean I knew them - I have actual memories growing up that include them:

- My Great Great Uncle Harry let me help him catch a water snake on the pier once.

- I dropped a cup with chicken pot pie in it while I was walking under the bay house, and my Great Granddaddy said, "Don't worry. The dogs will eat it. We don't have to tell anyone."

- My Great Grandmother talked about her dog Snoopy, the summer I found him, and the orange beach pale I carried him around in, until she was 100.

When I go back to Waller, TX, I do two things. I stay at my Grandpa's house, even when there's room at another, and I visit my Great Aunt Nina Lou. It's pretty easy to do too because they only live a couple of blocks from each other. In fact, a majority of my family lives within a six block radius of each other - aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, grandparents...get the picture?

Seriously, if you have old people in your life, hang out with them.
I actually grew up for 10 years in Waco, TX, with most of my Dad's side of the family. There were eight cousins. We rode go-karts, horses, and trailers. We went swimming at Aunt Karen and Uncle Tony's. We always ate sugar toast at Aunt Alisa's. We played fun games like Jail, and let's not forget Guns. Guns, is pretty much what it sounds like - make a gun with your hand, and shoot at each other (please refer back to, I grew up in Texas).

The historic Waco Suspension Bridge built in 1870. Once part of the Chisholm Trail.
We all moved around over the years, and slowly spread apart. My family moved to Clifton when I was ten. Clifton had a whopping 3,000 people, and was the only city in Bosque County with a stoplight at the time. In middle school, you went to the Cliftex on Friday/Saturday nights depending on football season. In high school, you drove the drag, hung out at friend's, or at this place aptly dubbed, "The Place."

True story about my middle school days. The Bosque County Conservatory of Fine Arts never locked their windows, so Candice Harmon and I would sneak into the building when it was locked and play on the gymnastic equipment. Yeah, that was probably illegal - I bet they have an actual alarm system now. Before I admit to any other shenanigans, we should get back to Waller.

There are the Krufts and the McCaigs. My Nana was both. The best desciption of my family was from my college roommate, April. We're basically an African Tribe: you have a patriarch/matriarch, multiple parental figures, and a whole lot of siblings even though they aren't biological direct family members. Here are the Krufts, as of October 2014 (missing Andy):

All the kids in this photo are first and third cousins, or you can use that once removed reference.
My Dad says he always knew I wouldn't stay in Texas. When I was getting ready to leave for the first time with Americorps NCCC, my Aunt said, "Why would you leave Texas? Your family is here." She was and is right, but she was also one of two Aunts that signed a farewell card with the George Burns quote on it. Leaving Texas was one of the most difficult things I ever did, and one of the best. It is my family that unknowingly encouraged me to start this blog.

More often than not, one of my family members will say something along the lines of living vicariously through me and my adventures. Don't get me wrong, I love my adventures, but they can also come with great sacrifice. I can't walk across the street, and have Saturday morning coffee with my Mom, even though I don't like her coffee. I can't go to breakfast at the Shell station with Grandpa and his buddies. I can't be there at the drop of a hat when we face a crisis.

What I can do, is keep living my adventures, even if they are small to me because they are big to someone else. My most recent was a winter summit of Mt. Bierstadt (14,060). 10 miles in the snow (round trip). 5ish AM departure. About 3.5 hours alone on the trail. 6 hours to summit. Second longest stay on summit due to great weather. Some fun summit photos. A good handful of laughs. A post hike tailgate in the parking lot, and my favorite, a post hike bacon cheese burger.

Sunrise over Bierstadt. This is shortly before I see my first other person of the day.

Looking back over the willows. They call the early morning sun, the Golden Light
Final approach to the summit. Taken by my favorite climbing partner, Nicole.
The Summiteers. Front: Tony; Back from left: Gray, Ryan, Me, Teddy, Nicole, Taylor, Ben, and Paige

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

In February, many people were thinking about dinner reservations, flower deliveries, and hey, let's not forget the 50% off chocolate that follows it all. Yes, I am referring to that wonderful commercialized holiday of St. Valentine. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against Valentine's Day. I mean what other holiday do you grow up eating chocolate for breakfast? Of course, I support that. Add President's Day, make it a three day weekend, and you've got my vote.

That weekend also marked my Aunt Nina Lou's 90th birthday. 90 years...she's lived through the Great Depression, a World War, the Cold War, the 60s, and a whole lot of neon. Nina McCaig was one of the first women to wear pants, and later probably one of the first to feed the cows decked out in complete Sunday's best attire - pantyhose, makeup, jewelry and all. She may not be infamous to the world, but she's infamous to our family. 

Valentine's also marked a moment in time when I began to realize I lost control of my ambitions. I stood at the top of a ski run in Wolf Creek, literally shaking in fear. Now before you go into a "people use literally wrong all the time" rant (see: The Oatmeal), I was literally shaking, and quite honestly, almost crying. It was my first day off the bunny slopes, and that run might as well have been a quadruple black diamond in my mind. Yes, that is an exaggeration, but you get my point. I did eventually go down the run. Not fast, and not smooth, but I did it. Whew! What an accomplishment, right? Well, apparently it wasn't.

After getting back to the condo that day, my boyfriend of the time spent over an hour telling me how disappointed he was with my skiing. He just went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about what it was like when he learned to ski. He skied on one ski early his first season. He did black diamonds his first season. He took risks. He pushed himself. He wasn't afraid of injury. He tried to better every day. If I'm not willing to get hurt, I'm not willing to get better. Wait! What? Hold the phone. Shut the front door. Get out! Is he telling me I suck because I'm not 100% like him? Well yeah, he was, and it wasn't the first time he had done this. Unfortunately for me, I never processed the importance of this conversation until the Spring. 

After the breakup, I was so afraid that no-one in the climbing group would ever accept me - that I would always be an outsider. It took about three months before I got up enough nerve to go back to a happy hour, and plan a trip with members online. That June trip was a game changer for me in the mountains. I pushed myself. I persevered. I met new people, and I realized everything my ex said about the 14ers climbers never accepting me was wrong. Most importantly, I learned the value in setting my own goals/expectations, and moving forward.

Mt. Lindsey from treeline. Peak on the right.

The beautiful scenery along the steep trail.

Summit of Mt. Lindsey - Sangre de Cristo Range
On the descent, looking across at Blanca, Ellingwood, and Little Bear.