Moments To Remember


All Guts, Fighting for Victory. To Hell with the Glory.

hurt lockerI thought it admirable that those that gave it all, receive the Glory. What I have found along the way is that those that give the most, could care less about the Glory. For the first time in my life, I understand this to my core. I have given all of my Guts, I am fighting for Victory- and honestly- To Hell with the Glory.

I started writing Moments To Remember as a complimentary to my VLG on Valcyte Blog 2 years ago. As Blake ascended from the insanity of chronic illness to wellness, my journey as a caretaker ended and I began my journey back into life.

At first I was excited. Then I was fearful. Having been tossed through a few physical traumas and more than a few surgeries over the past four years, I knew it would take time to re-enter. I never expected to be forced to reset my life. I’ve always been good at re-entry. I have that one down. But to reset ones life, takes a jet full of courage which is hard to muster when one is barely flying an Ultra Lite.

An Ultra Lite is a recreational only, single seat with fabric wings and a big fan stuck on the back which are attached to basically an oversized wagon that you sit in. Flying an Ultra Lite is like getting in a kite on the end of a string and allowing yourself to go a few hundred feet in the air and its’ best not to think about how or where you might land. That was me. The Ultra Lite Girl. To heck with risk assessment-check. To heck with flying at a high altitude-check. To heck with going any faster than  5-10 mph  the Ultra Lite rolls at-CHECK!

But herein lies the problem. There aren’t too many gas stations in the sky that will allow for air to air refueling with my Ultra Lite lifestyle. Suddenly realizing that I was living a life of limited choices then looking at the Ultra Lite as my given option; I chose to reset my life. I would love to say that I reset my life and hopped into the cockpit of an SR-71 Blackbird, yet not so fast.

The most talented and accomplished people in the world know that progress depends on hard work. I happened to pick goals for the next 5-7 years that have been labeled as “unattainable, impossible, beyond my reach and insane”.  I happen to rise to the challenge when somebody calls me crazy, so these hurling inflammatory remarks only ignited me to fly faster and reach for the stars.

After I somehow managed to land safely as Ultra Lite Girl, even without a parachute, I found myself  back on a path I had originally planned. The path looks different now and so much has changed. But the core intentions are intact.

A few weeks ago, I had one of the worst days of my life. On the flip side, it was also one of the best days of my life. I have been given an opportunity to work with a top tier business team for the next several years. I am writing the book Viral Assault with this team. The first stage of this book deals with many circumstances that led to the story that is Viral Assault. The first stage is also the most painful for me on a personal level.

As I rolled up to my first face to face work meeting, I parked my truck in the shade. I looked in the back seat at my trusted Black Labrador and she stared back at me intently. Neither one of us had slept the night before. As I opened the door, I pulled out a beige Pelican. I began rolling the Pelican towards one of the team members. He said something like, “oh, you brought the ammo”, referring to the case. I replied, “No, this is my hurt locker”.

The meeting went well but I was so awkward and kept staring at the contents in the Pelican. Last night I perused my transcripts of the recording made in the interview. My language was disjointed, halting and not very clear.  I was obviously in tremendous emotional pain regurgitating events that I wish had never happened and that I wish will never happen to another parent or patient. Reading those transcripts was an eye opener. I know why I stayed at the end of a kite for 2 years. I was safer there than I am now. By opening that hurt locker and dealing with the pain inside, it allowed me to deal with issues that contained a vital part of the story of Viral Assault.  I am now willingly reaching beyond my comfort zone. I am doing this for Victory, not for Glory.

I’ve met a lot of interesting folks along my journey of healing. I feel inspired and humbled by so many I have met. I increasingly am in awe of the women I have met both personally and virtually. The strength of these women, the grace and the magnitude of support has been magnetic. It is the people I have met that have really helped to give me the mindset,  “that if I fall 7 times, I will get up 8”. To all my new friends, I am grateful to you. It is going to take a lot of Angel Power to get me back into the cockpit and back into the wind and sails. My only hope is that I can circulate that power, reinforce it and send it out to as many as I can for faith, love and hope.

aut viam inveniam aut faciam 

Julia Hugo Rachel





Banking Out Of The Clouds


I realize true strength comes from within. To instill strength in my son recovering from a chronic illness, I support him and nourish him with great Food, Laughter, Experiences and Love.

“The will to survive is inherent. Sometimes, that will needs to be nourished. Our largest value in life, comes from our strength in giving back, in nourishing others.”

I have been wandering the forest and surrounding lands looking for clues as to what creatures are surrounding me. Having arrived here nearly 2 months ago, I am beginning to realize the enormity of the diversity of both the plants and animal life. The magnitude of what has been preserved in both the land and marine life is astounding.

At times, I have found myself isolated and engulfed in fear when a large predator is near me. My heightened sense of awareness lights up my insecurity about survival. My Grandmother used to say that “familiarity breeds contempt”.  If this is true, then I question myself as to why I am not embracing this unfamiliar terrain without contempt. I embrace the beauty, yet this terrain with all of its’ magical prehistoric features and wild animals is stirring up a  heaping pile of steaming fear on my plate.

Once upon a time, I had a near perfect life. I flew in sunny skies and whatever life threw at me, I hit back at it with a wicked swing.  Like any batter, averages fluctuate. Yet, I’ve come to realize that life is more than just fluctuation in averages. Life is about experiences that mold us, that break us, that shatter us and that envelope us in such beauty that we are inspired to rebuild.  How we choose to rebuild, is the crux of our existence.

It is easy to fall down. It is harder to get back up. It is even more difficult to rise from the ashes to become a stronger person after having experienced great falls in life.

Right now, I am banking out of the clouds. I am learning to solo again. It feels like forever since I have navigated well. My turns feel awkward, I question my route. As I level off, my eye is on the ball. It is the same ball, the same vision, the same goal I had prior to falling so hard. I feel closer to being a strong hitter again, yet I will not hit as I used to. I’ve learned that I need not throw back every fast ball sent my way in this life. I can step off the plate and watch that ball go right by me. I can pick and choose how I want to  hit and how hard I will hit.

Strength lies in not how hard I fight back, but how well I use my strength. For me, the “win” has been keeping my eye on the ball through trauma.  It took concentration, focus and a strength of will that was fueled by Angel Power.  We do not always have the luxury of knowing the why or how of life, nor the outcome.

It takes courage to launch a dream in the face of adversity. For all who are achieving their dreams against all odds, I tip my wings to you.

There ARE Stars in CactusVille


“I presumed wrongly”.

There is an old addage that says, “never assume anything”.

I have lived beneath a blanket of stars for nearly 2 decades. It has been as if I have lived in a plantetarium. Our ranch is located in a vast and rural valley where the nights are crisp and the stars are bright. Nearly all constellations can be viewed. When I left the ranch for my new journey, I landed near the Sea. Just as  I presumed, the stars were not as vivid, nor bright. I assumed I would never have such a view of the stars again.

I have climbed  a “ladder of fear” during  the past 6 months. Fear of leaving my son who is not quite well enough to care for  himself  100%, yet he needs to learn how to move forward on his own. Fear when he was hit by a car that he might relapse and his illness would reactivate violently. Fear that my heart would break without my beloved horse herd. Fear that I woud not be privvy to the falling stars that constantly took my breath away. Fear I would lose sight of the constellations I behold so dearly in my heart and soul.

Fear is a ferocious killer of passion. Normally, I do not dance with fear and it is not on my menu. Last friday, I found myself shaking and trembling as I entered the cockpit of one of my beloved cars for the first time in 2.5  years. I realized in that moment, that fear  was suffocating me.

After experiencing a trauma to the left side of my body, I underwent a 9 hour surgery. Three months later I underwent  a 4 hour surgery.  I could not walk for nearly 16 months. Then when I walked, I trembled with fear. The leg was unstable. I could not hold down food. I lost mobility. I lost confidence.

I had dreamed of this moment. I had salivated to get back into the cockpit of my Porsches. My mind had wandered to rally racing as I laid in bed for so long. Surely, I would pop up and run through life as I have always done after a trauma. Yet, this one was different. The wounds were deeper.  Some cannot be repaired. I have always prided myself on my inner strength and my Irish Heritage of lacing my boots tighter and standing taller through trials and tribulations. My inner strength had been pierced by the trauma.

Time, heartaches, losses, grief, losing a son and the love of my life and nearly losing Blake  has left a mark on me.

You can only roll so far in this life before you get to a stop sign that says “Wake Up”. My stop sign was a face to face with my demons over the past 6 months.  Words like fallable, weak, tortured, raped and wounded breached my soul and thoughts. I did the only thing I’ve ever done. I isolated and let nature take her course. Then, I began to release my fears.

I crawled into the cockpit of the car at 1 pm on a sunny day in vineyard land. The seat, smell, sound of the engine and mechanics felt unfamiliar. This is a car I know by cell memory, yet it felt oddly unfamiliar. There was no thrill in getting back into the drivers seat. I drove down the road towards a highway thinking “have I lost my passion for these cars and racing”?

The radio was not working. The car seemed foreign to me. I was uncomfortable. I felt numb.  In actuality, I was in fear of driving. I was in fear of a road trip across 2 states in a vintage car. I removed her top, threw on the earphones on my iphone, pumped on Pandora radio and hit the highway.

Top off, music blaring through my ears to my soul, the magic of my passion for Porsches returned. I let my hair down, I turned the music up louder. As the highways opened up to longer stretches, I opened  her up. Then, miracles began to happen.

Just when I began to smile, a group of Irish friends on motorcycles pulled up next to me on the highway. They nodded, I nodded. Then, they escorted me for about 120 miles and we opened up the road. These men had been a part of my life since a young age and I felt at home. Looking ahead, I coud see them in formation. Looking behind, they were close to me in formation. I realized then, I was stepping up that ladder of fear into letting go. I was no longer alone.

My friends turned off and I had 15-17 hours of driving left. I felt sad to see them go, yet was now feeling confident in driving a clutch for the first time in 2.5  years. I was shining in the glory of swinging my leg back into the saddle of life.

Just as I was gaining confidence, another motorcycle club dear to my heart pulled up close alongside me. I grinned as they all did a signal to me. I had lost a son with a member of this group. They are undeniably a part of my life and past.

This time, it was time to roll. Speed increased and the highways opened up for us to flow.  I drove across 2 states with confidence and Angels looking over me. My old friends were there nearly the entire way. Some would get off at a ramp, then others would come on in a few miles. When I gassed up, they stopped to wait. An old friend, is still a friend in this club.

Screaming through the desert at 3am with the top off, I looked up to the night sky. I was in awe. The stars were bright. The constellations were visible. I caught a shooting star. The Heavans were with me.

There ARE Stars in Cactusville.


The End of Foreboding Times


Somewhere in those foreboding times of my life, I grasped the idea to let go and revert to my inner wild side.

I left this major piece known as my wild self long ago in order to try and act as a normal human being. This normal state would be one that would be called “Mother”, “Wife” and ultimately “Caretaker of an ill child”.  I naturally assumed I would evolve to a more mature lifestyle through this mentality, one that could be called “low risk”.  My life did not evolve that way, although I rigorously tried  to canoe up that stream.

I seriously abandoned traditional motherhood syndrome. I baked incessantly  and won the hearts and stomachs of all the children that entered the farm house, yet none of the baked goods ever looked pretty nor tasted exactly the same.  As far as being the “normal” mother, it never really happened. I am quite sure it was  apparent to everyone who ever encountered me that I was the furthest notch away from traditional. I tried to be normal, it never worked out for me. Case in fact, I drove a Subaru for 16 years, but only after Blake nearly fell through a gaping hole in my 1966 912 Porsche at 6 months old. When he turned 17, the doors to the garages were opened wide and out came the Porsches again. Only this time, I gravitated towards faster cars with a penchant for racing. I was determined to show my son what true passion at a high rate of speed looked like. I believe I succeeded.

I abandoned the lifestyle of being a Mom to an ill child with wild enthusiasm when I realized it was time to move on. Only after my son was well enough to live again independently, did I toss aside the past hurt with furious determination. No longer struggling with dying souls, I released both Blake and myself to flight. As we soar, my role as “Mom” takes on a new and refreshing tact. This wind is lighter and joyous. In the hopes of giving Blake some of what he lost in his youth, my main focus is to assume the role of chief listener. I directed for so many years, I now sit in the audience and watch. Of course, should he stray from course, sails will be adjusted per my parenting style. I am a mother to my core.

For years, people yammered that I held onto my son fiercly and needed to loosen the reins on his life. I shot them glaring looks and willed them to realize that I was not holding the reins on Blake, but rather he was grasping at his mother with all he had. He would talk to nobody but me. He isolated to shut out the badgering and vicious accusations hurled by all who had no idea of the impact of the illness Blake was suffering from. He succumbed to ravaging illness for over a decade with as much dignity as his young mind and soul could muster. He adhered to self preservation by blocking out all negativity in his life, allowing 2 close childhood  friends, his dog and music to dominate his life.

With the majority of suffering behind us and with the events which transpired this past 4th of July, I knew my time to  move away from Blake as primary caretaker had arrived. It took me from July 4th until November 4th to complete this process. On July 4th, I set the date to disengage by December 31, 2012. However, things were going so extraodinarily well,  I initiated departure on November 4th.

Ecstatic with my decision, I lingered in the area near his University and spent time on the ranch. I had an eery feeling to stay nearby. As it turned out, nothing can beat a mothers intuition. Blake was hit by a car on November 15th. He sustained minor injuries. He was lucky. The driver did not see him in the crosswalk and did not brake. The detectives said the impact was full on contact at between 25-35 mph.  Blake shattered the drivers windshield on impact. Blake walked away from the scene, albeit in shock.

My blast off date arrived yet was anything but serene. What was I doing? Where was I going? How was I going to get there? In the midst of the chaos of the past decade, I had lost a great piece of my true self, I had lost sight of passions that grip my soul and I nearly lost sight of my own health. I then determined that a self imposed ritual of peace, love, beauty, the ocean, horses and a magnificent room with a view were in order. I picked a random spot on the map and I moved. The spot correlated with a small side project I was then asked to do, so the geographical location “clicked” and solidified.

The most interesting aspect of letting go, is not being consumed with the details. I am notorious for studying science, biology, geography and geology. Yet when I go on an adventure, I let those features permeate to the surface before I envelope them in study. In other words, I fly  blind then explore.  Hence, I arrive as a pure enthusiast in all things adventurous. I am in awe of the natural environment and how to live in harmony with nature. I am also most interested in staying alive, thus I purchased a Bear Book after 2 Black Bears greeted me on my first evening at the cottage. When I am in the field working, I tend to be hyper vigilant and study locations ad nauseum prior to arrival. Yet when I am on an adventure, I let the adventure take sail.

I can not pinpoint one event that markedly shifted my mindset which set a paradigm shift in motion to flip me back into the saddle of life. It was a conglomerate of events that propelled and launched my quest for freedom of soul. I admit, I was driven to read manly warrior books to initiate my inner warrior in order to battle a recent spate of physical traumas. I hold  the strongest, most athletic and most determined men in the world in high esteem and I am continually learning strength from such warriors and explorers. However, as it turned out, it would be the women in my life that fueled me to take flight.

There is an old saying amongst women. “Men will pinch your ass, Women will save it”. This has held true for me throughout my life. Thus, I am not surprised at the deep connections, the spiritual insights nor the savvy acumen so many women brought to me during such a prominent time when I needed inspiration and nurturing in order to soar. There is a special group of women, diverse, yet connected that I hold dear to my heart. I have life long friends that continuously call out of the blue, when I seemingly go off the rails. If I could put all of my women friends in one auditorium, the Earth would literally move. These are powerful, bright, determined, original and authentic women.

Behold such power and tread lightly, for Angels are yet a breath away.

I have no idea what today will bring. My visions of the future are taking shape, my goals are solid. Regaining my footing in wild surroundings is a blessing I refuse to ignore for one moment. Moments to Remember now includes jumping in a vintage car with 2 dogs, 3 carry on bags and heading off to a point on a map for a wild adventure akin only to those of my earlier days. Why Not I Ask?  What IF?  The possibilities are limitless.

Investigatio Liberare animam Meam (The Quest to Free My Soul)

The Mind Body Experience.

 Its’ been said that in order to be tough physically, you must possess mental strength. If this is so, where do we find the strength to promote Peace? Perhaps from our hearts.

Excellent warriors understand that to excel at maximum capacity, one has to clear their mind and body from all toxic thoughts. It is only with a clear mind, that the mind and body connection can become one with an intense experience.

With talk of PTSD and suicide on the tongue of our military and so many advocacy groups, the focus seems to be on combat stress and mental stability. For anyone who has studied neurobiology, the brain is much more complicated than these factors. I am constantly amazed that PTSD is continually looked at from a psychological angle as opposed to a biological angle. We have scientific proof and evidenced based facts linking viruses that attack the brain and TBI’s to subsets of PTSD especially those involving suicide.

Humans are not the only ones who experience PTSD. I’ve seen K-9 working dogs, pets and extremely athletic horses present with PTSD and brain dysfunction. I’ve worked with both dogs and horses presenting with these conditions. The horses are my passion. The only thing I have found to allow a horse to heal with PTSD is to enable them to “take back their power”. At some point, they have lost their will to work as athletes because their spirit has been stripped. In many cases, healing can begin in these horses within 2 years. A new case is on the way to me and I shall let you know how he does. I had the opportunity of working with a magnificent horse from Dubai who had lost the will to race. His trauma was deep seeded and well documented. Many times, owners say “he just snapped one day”.  This is unlikely. There is always a precipitous event or string of events of trauma unforseen to people standing right next to the horse. The same goes for the warrior who is afflicted with PTSD.

The mind-body experience is not only for athletes and warriors, it is a code to live by. Ethics, Integrity, Truth, Intention and harmony all play into a person’s life. Break one of these ethos and watch how negativity streams into your life. Speak of ill thoughts and they shall return to you. Many people say “you are what you eat”. I believe “we are what we say”.  Our thoughts create our life’s journey.

Recently, I had a milestone birthday. One of reflection, one of stark reality. I was diagnosed on my birthday during a visit to my sons doctor at Stanford. As I was sitting on the chair, the doctor looked at me and said “what is THAT?” What is “WHAT”, I asked? He said, “What is that lump on your neck. He measured, it was 2×5 cm. A week later at another doctors office, it had grown a few centimeters. At that point, I had another lump in my body which was cleared and not of concern, yet this one in/near the lymph gland on the neck was/is a concern.

I realized that my mind-body experience has been degraded for a decade. I was told by colleagues, doctors, friends and my father that I could not keep running at the pace I was travelling. Taking care of a sick son, putting all my energy towards his recovery, I did little to take care of myself. For anyone who has experienced life as a full-time caretaker plus working, you get what I am saying. Men would approach me for a date and I would look at them in bewilderment. Friends would invite me to dinner parties and my attendance rate was 10% at best. I rarely attended events, rarely sailed, hiked or swam and never allowed myself the time to grieve for all the losses I experienced during that decade. It is only now, that I can visit Arlington cemetary. I can actually get out of the car and walk to section 60. I can cry, I can wail and I can mourn. God has taken away my best friend, the love of my life, the dogs I have loved the most and the greatest partner underneath me I have known. A horse named Peace. That mare is for another blog.

God has also given me a son that has recovered, the passion to fight for patients who are not getting medical attention and the will to put my mind and body back together. Through torn limbs, trauma to the eyes, trauma to the hands and trauma to my soul I feel as if I am ignited to progress forward with the ethos I believe in. I strongly believe in serving my country. I strongly believe in the fact that a paradigm shift needs to occur in foreign policy, american lifestyles and global interactions. What this shift looks like, will be determined by the end of the 2012 election.

Right now, my mind-body shift is to focus on my healing. To continue to work in the capacity I am capable of and to fight to get back to my warrior state. Women warriors do exist.


The Ultimate Roadtrip; My Birthday at an I-5 Truck Stop

 I recently had the experience of travelling 1000 miles roundtrip with Blake to his 105th medical appointment in 10 years. This was undoubtedly the best road trip we have endured thus far.

We made the decision NOT to journey in a vintage Porsche, but rather brave the trip  in a rental car. This is a decision most would have made a decade ago, yet that’s’ just not the way we roll. We pride ourselves on driving vintage cars in heat, sleet, ice, snow and adverse weather conditions. Our road trip stories are legendary!

We both were at the point of  “opening up” with each other and light banter and humor became this road trips theme. I was jovial, Blake chimed in. Heated debates about Middle East policies and the history of Egypt were brought up. Foreign policies were discussed and our revolving banter about the fate of Palestine continued.

I began to see my son opening up to me in a way I have never seen before. Maybe this was because I turned a  milestone birthday at a truck stop on I-5.  As we stopped for gas at the exact time of my birth, we both recognized the significance of this refueling. My life is now 1/2 over and a new chapter is beginning.  No time to celebrate, that will come later. This trip was about  medical milestones and looking ahead at a bright future.

Back into the car, we drifted onto the subject of mathematics, equations and advanced theorems. We are a family of  “thinkers” thus this is normal conversation. While talking about a physics theorem and listening to both of our stomachs growling, I recognized the need for a food pit stop. I spied  an  In and Out  Burger which is one of the fast foods my stomach  can handle. I went to turn off the highway when Blake said  “NO”!

“Why”,  I asked?  “You LIKE  In and Out Burger”.

Blake proceeded to explain that there is a “wait to tastiness ratio” Theorem.  His theorem went on for several minutes and basically proposed that there was  a price to be paid by wait time (x), compared to how good something tastes (y). Thus if we grabbed something where the wait was not so long, we would sacrifice on taste. Then y became the main variable and x became the solution. This ratio and theorem must be considered under duress he declared. Huh. It took me a few minutes to grasp his logic. Men think differently than women. Forget all the men and Mars and  women and Venus jargon. Men are just different creatures than women and that’s the way it should be. Its’ not rocket science.

We drifted back to long conversations about past hilarious road trips in our vintage cars that were not so funny at the time. On one trip, the heater was busted to the “on” position in an older 911 in the middle of summer. We drove at night thinking this would fix the heat assault issue. Blake kept complaining that his feet were hot. I told him to stop whining and stick his feet out the window of the Targa. He rarely complains, but he was being nasal and it was bugging me. When we stopped to gas up after a LONG stretch I smelled plastic burning. I said, “do you smell that Blake”.  He said,  “Yes, its’ my shoes. They melted on to my feet”.  Sure enough, the rubber soles had melted and his feet were on the verge of burns. I felt horrible.

Another trip, the starter went out of the old 912. Have you ever noticed that gas stations are FLAT. Try finding a gas station along a major highway that has any kind of incline to jump-start a clutch.   After gassing up, I asked Blake, “Do you want to pop the clutch and I’ll push?”  He declined.

We gassed up and he started to push. Dang if we could not even reach 1/2 mph on flat land. Just as we got into the roadway where major semi trucks are pulling into four different truck stops, we started to gain momentum. We were heading into the right lane, still crossing the left lane coming out of the Arco station in Corning. Blake said “Mom, Mom!”  I replied,  “honey faster”.  He kept saying “but Mom, but Mom”!  I finally  snapped, “What!”

He said,  “there is a BIG semi truck  about to hit us head on!”  I looked up and said “push faster!”  So he pushed faster, I popped the clutch, he ran and jumped in and we made it back to the ranch. We had travelled 800 miles roundtrip for a medical appointment when the starter crapped out towards the beginning on that trip.

One winter we had snow fever. Blake had been bedridden for nearly 4 years at that point. We were both housebound and stir crazy. At that point he was barely able to walk.  I got  an idea.  I said, “honey, we are driving to Canada”. Blake said “OK”.

I wrapped him in a blanket, threw in a couple of fake furs from the 1930’s that we call our pimp coats. They are long, insulated and WARM and make great blankets to cover your legs when driving vintage cars in cold weather. I left the map, chains and the cell phone at the ranch and we proceeded to head North/East up highway 97 towards Eastern Washington in a fairly severe blizzard. We were driving a 1967 912 that was my darling, but had a mind of her own.

We weren’t in the car but a few hours when Blake starts complaining that his feet are cold. I told him to throw another fake fur around his ankles. He keeps telling me he thinks he is getting frostbite. I turn up the heater.  As darkness neared, it became apparent that Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington are not the safest areas to travel in severe snow storms without chains in a vintage Porsche. Mountainous passes creeped up on us and before we knew it we were in granite canyons in icy dangerous conditions. To make matters worse, there were no road signs declaring mileage or towns for hundreds of miles.  We had no idea where we were. What state does not have road signs?

However, about every 5 miles there would be a road sign that said, “Please do not drink and drive”.  After a few hundred miles of these signs,  Blake turns to me and says “Mom, I feel like a beer”. It was like a Corona commercial in the snow. You always want what you can’t have.  It was dark, snowing heavily, icy and conditions were off the chart dangerous.

We made it up to Eastern Washington, spent the night,  then nixed the idea of heading to Canada. We decided to head back to Oregon. On the way back, snowfall became heavier. Then an odd thing started to happen. Every time I would round a slight curve in the road there would sound off a loud, high-pitched BEEP-BEEP.  At first, it only happened round corners. I studied the issue and held the steering wheel tightly in a certain position around corners as to minimize the Beep-Beep.

This 912 had a racing engine, she was solid, but her horn sounded like a whining wimpy squeal. The horn did not match the car. It was an oddity. The pitch was like nothing I’ve ever heard. It belonged to a wailing cat in heat, not a Porsche. As the snow fell heavier, visibility reduced and the horn started beep-beeping if we hit even a slight bump. It was becoming annoying. There were no hotels and we had been driving about 8 hours when the horn began its CONTINUOUS alien scream beeping. After 30 minutes Blake was covering his ears with pillows in agony.  I was driving and holding a screw driver lodged underneath the horn in the center of the steering wheel and was frantically attempting to rip out any and all wires beneath the horn section that I could grasp while driving in poor visibility.

We continued on with the insane alien horn squealing for over 4 more hours before we reached a motel at about 1 am. Blake and I looked at each other and sighed then said simultaneously, “Thank GOD”.  There were a zillion trucks lined up in front of the motel as roads were closing and luckily there was a vacancy sign. We had found relief. Our nightmare was over.

We pulled in with the shrill horn screaming full blast and turned off the motor. Then a stranger thing happened, the horn kept screaming with the engine off. I disconnected the battery in the dark, high wind and frigid weather but  the horn kept shrieking. By this time, lights in all the truck cabs were coming on, the motel lights started revving up and insults were being blatantly hurled at us by some pretty bad ass looking truckers. I learned never to wake a trucker up in a snowstorm. As mad people descended towards are cute little red car,  Blake slid down in his seat and begged me to keep driving. “Just go mom, P-L-E-A-S-E-  JUST GO!”

We were 8 hours from the ranch, it was snowing heavily and the horn sound was enough to make me want to check into an insane asylum. I started her up and off we went.

Somewhere just outside of Bend, Oregon was a little one man gas station that was open at 3 am. I stopped to get gas. There was a man who eyed me wearily as I paid for gas. He was sitting behind a bullet proof warm enclosed cubicle. It had not occurred to me that he was suspicious of me because I pulled into the station at 3 am with the horn continuously blowing. Blake looked suspicious as he was sunken down in his seat embarrassed and  covering his ears and head with pillows. He was hauntingly thin from the illness and probably looked like a meth addict to an outsider.

It didn’t take long before 3 Sheriff units were on scene with lights flashing. I was approached by a burly Sheriff who had un snapped his holster and had his hand on his gun. As I was gassing up, dark circles under my eyes I just stared at him. He stared back.  OK,  now I could see the whole picture. Crazy woman, emaciated guy in front seat, 3 am in the morning in a Porsche in a snow storm and the horn is continuously blaring. I had to admit, this was odd.

I did what any normal woman would do. I said , “Hi officer,  I am having a problem. My son is not feeling well in the front seat.  I’ve been travelling for nearly 12 hours  and my  horn  has been stuck on. The sound is driving me crazy.  I’ve tried everything to disconnect it. Here is my DL and my ranch is 4 hours away. I am trying to make it home and then I am going to shoot this car”.

He cocked his head, looked at Blake, looked at me and said, “Oh Shit, Really?  You’ve been driving with THAT noise for 8 hours? Man, I give you credit!”  He snapped the holster back up, called his buddies for some tools and he and I climbed all over that car and underneath it to find the horn cylinder. It had been re-wired incorrectly and we found it far from the right wheel well way underneath the car.  We were both on the ground with mag lights searching for the cylinder. It took us about 30 minutes as the snow was deep and packed underneath the car. We clipped the wires and the sound went dead. Total relief was felt by all.

I am still friends with those Sheriffs up in that Valley to this day. It was one of those experiences you just don’t forget. After arriving home, Blake slept for a week. I got back to work with the livestock and we never really spoke of that trip again.

Until a few years later, I was restoring that car and found a 2×4 hole in the floorboard underneath the matte where an old A/C unit had been. Blake had complained of cold feet the entire trip and nearly gotten frost bite. When we found that hole that let in snow and ice during the entire trip we laughed hysterically. His feet were basically fully exposed to the elements during that trip.

The last theorem Blake came up with as we were pulling into the ranch after this weeks past road trip was that driving vintage cars on road trips was like riding in a covered wagon long distance. There was the “toughness to survival” ratio.  He had the equations and theorem all worked out.  I just smiled.


Memories Found Remind Me of Who I am and Where I am Going.

I have at least 30 days of  sewing up loopholes before I ascend back into a life I once lived.  Today I found myself unpacking, sorting and surprisingly emerged in memories from my entire life.

I don’t drink wine, I drink Tequila. I don’t pack mementos in boxes, I pack “stuff” in suitcases. I never owned a Barbie. I never had a boy friend in high school. But I did fall in love with the Marlboro Man and he with me during a Barry Goldwater Convention. (That is another story for another blog.)

Each suitcase I have packed is vintage in style and from a different era in my life. Today I stared at the South America Suitcases and danced around until I was finally ready to open them and deal with the contents.

Just as I was about to get down to business, I eyed a sophisticated piece of vintage luggage made of bamboo with both a Mexico and a Cuba sticker on it. Ah-ha, I thought! Then my mind went blank. I could not imagine what was in this large, heavy contraption and who on earth would have purchased this water stained semi-trunk? When did it get water stained?

I remember picking the suitcase up at a yard sale. Its’ a total blur after that!  When I opened the contraption, my life spilt out in front of me. I conceded right then and there that I did not have a normal childhood and all the wild and mysterious rumors about me are really true.  It took me a few moments to realize what I had stumbled upon. Once I realized the magnitude of  the memories contained within this bamboo relic, I admitted to myself that this would be an all day event. An event in which I would need to pay extra attention to this precious cargo. What I take away from today could very well define my future.

I had written a short story about Castro and Che through my VLG on Valcyte Blog. I opined that one of the many reasons Che was defeated  in Bolivia was his health.  Che made a fatal decision that left his life saving asthma medicine behind, leading him to become weak and slow in the Bolivian Mountains. After opening up the trunk from my past  I realized I have a deep connection with the politics, military and foreign policy of that time. I found newspaper clippings about Cuba and the revolution. I recognized many faces in the photos as either relatives or friends of the family. Some folks were involved in  intelligence, some were in the  military and some were counter-intelligence. In our family anything goes, as long as you are pro-American all the way. Dating back to the mid-late 1600’s, our family has been involved in every form of service to this country.

There is something about growing up in a political family that leaves you with a sense of  isolation. You learn from a young age a strict code of ethics, conduct and golden rules which are never to be broken. I managed to find every other “rule breaker” I could find within our circles and proceeded to systematically break every code ever given to me or them.  I had no idea how I  landed where I am today until I opened the trunk.

A normal childhood trunk might contain childhood photos. I deliberately shied away from cameras for most of my life. There were no childhood photos. What I did find, were memories of my life through professional photographs taken of my father throughout my childhood. Each picture brought back a different memory of that exact trip for  that exact political campaign in  that exact moment in time. We travelled for political or business reasons, not for vacations.

As I perused photos of a younger looking Dad  I  was stunned to see how many politicians spanning decades were in photos with him.  Each photo was taken at “a moment in time” when a photographer was there to document “that  moment”.  I noticed the transition in the photos from men in suits and ties; to men in suits with no ties, to men with their jackets off then to men with their shirt sleeves rolled up. These truly were historic moments in time for some particular campaign or issue and I was there in the background.

That is how I remember my childhood. I was stunned to find myself realizing that we had moved 8  times in 12  years. I did not even remember some of the houses until I was able to recognize them in the photos.

Those photos  in that suitcase are why I moved to an extremely rural ranch to raise my son in a way I always imagined I could be raised.  Although I embraced living on vast lands, I was still afforded the luxury of  projects that piqued my interest as a consultant.  As always, I revelled in the delight of my horse herd and all of those horses that found their way to me to heal.

Both dogs abandoned me today.  They sensed that I needed some alone time.  My alone time is over and I am ready to walk out into the sunshine tomorrow. When I awoke this morning, I had no idea of the memories I would find that would ultimately play a role to propel me towards my vision and future. Had it not been for those photos and that lifestyle,  I would not be shooting for the moon with a vision so grand as to save millions of lives. I’ve seen what a room full of determined minds can accomplish with hard work and enthusiasm. I am forever changed by the knowledge of that power.


Time To Man Up. But I am a Woman?

They say “there are no coincidences in life”.  I am a firm believer in this. Today I came to the realization that I must MAN UP. Simple right? No problem, right? Except for one fact. I am a woman. How does a woman gather the strength to Man Up? Is it the yin or yang that makes a woman man up? It’s neither, its called Girl Power. And those of us that have it, know it.

Swinging back into the saddle of life, I find  there is no time for whining or for self-pity. Yet reflection hit me smack in the face as I descended those vertical stairs once again today.

Rushing downstairs after a morning of conference calls, I was heading out the front door. I stopped cold in my tracks. There, right there, next to the couch was that rucksack again. It looked full. I picked it up and confirmed, Roger that. Felt like about 35 lbs. I did not open it, we already know, its’ full of rotten insect ridden dirty wood from the woodpile. On the couch was a sweatshirt. Blake’s bedroom door was closed. He had done it again. He went for a run, second day in a row.

I knocked softly on his door and entered upon the “OK”. The stubborn Yellow Lab had wedged herself against the furthest corner of the room, she was lying down but at full alert staring at me. I could tell, she was begging me not to blame her. I softly said “did you go with HIM?”  She lowered her head and pretended she  was deaf. She likes to play deaf with me.

Blake has not been cleared for running and certainly not for carrying any sort of weight. As I contemplated what to do and how to convey the importance of how to precondition after a pro-longed trauma, it dawned on me that he needed to hear these words from a man. Most men don’t want to hear about physical conditioning and/or training techniques from a woman, let alone their own mother.

This was going to take some thought. I thought about approach, I thought about tactics, I thought about presentation, then I thought that this is ridiculous to think about this. Just man up and explain to him how to train, how to rebuild his body and his life. I looked around and realized a startling fact; there are no coincidences in life. I had done this, I had set this ball in motion  and was just realizing that 6 degrees of separation were in play.

As I was contemplating my role in this situation, I found myself staring at an oil painting of a high mountain lake in the HinduKush mountain region of Afghanistan  hanging in my office. I acquired the painting pre – 9/11 and suddenly my thoughts trailed to recent blogs about women in war. Heated debates about how women are ill-equipped, could never do what a man does, would never be great in combat, etc.

I stared at that oil painting which is of vibrant blue and green tones of the high mountain Afghan lake and wondered about the artist and the day it was handed to me as a gift. I thought about the beautiful mountains where so much blood has been spilled. I grimaced at the thought of war and contemplated many of the recent comments on SOFREP and other SOF blogs about women in combat.  I was proud to hear Kevin Hanrahan and Brandon Webb speak eloquently about some women  in combat.  The oil painting story spans 3 decades long and is for another blog; another time. That is a story that could fill a book.  Until then, it is classified.

As I stared at that painting, the past weeks events flashed before my eyes. Blake had asked for summer reading suggestions, so I had given Blake 5 books to read this summer. The first in the series was “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell. Blake started his running routine after reading about 45 pages of  “Lone Survivor” and this fact piqued my interest. Why?

I went to the book and started reading.  It  suddenly dawned on me that the oil painting I had been staring at was in the vicinity of  the region where Operation Red Wings took place.  The coincidences were so parallel between Marcus and Blake, I set the book down. Grew up on a farm/ranch/small town- check. Endured really tough times growing up, yet kept their dignity- check. Mother known as a horse whisperer- check. Feet too big to lie down in the proper sniper position, toes pointing out wrong-probably.

Blake continually crabs about how big his feet and body frame are compared to other guys he works out with. He says they hop up like peanuts and he feels like the Jolly Green Giant in comparison.  He continually gripes about how the heck he can lie in the man down shooter position with his feet in the proper position, when his feet are so big  thus his ankles can’t ergonomically turn like the smaller guys.

Yep, Blake was reading about Marcus and identifying with him. This was the driving force behind Blake jumping out of bed at 4 am and hitting the streets to run with nasty insect ridden wood loaded in a rucksack thrown over his shoulders. It looks like it was the first time in 10 years that Blake felt connected to another soul, besides an animal.

I’ve decided to suggest a personal sports trainer for Blake. I am the most proficient to teach him in any water element, but the running and weights and martial arts need to be handled by a man. I’ll be struck by lightning before somebody else teaches my son rudimentary basic underwater training. That is the Girl Power part of me.

The woman and mother aspect of me just picked up the rucksack with the nasty wood in it and threw it in his room and closed the door.


A Decade Later, A Fresh Start Begins. July 4, 2012


4th of July 2012 brings unexpected moments that drive me to the realization that a decade has past and a fresh start has begun. For the past 10 years, I have battled, bullied, gone beyond my personal limits and barged my way through doors slammed in my face. For the love of God, anyone who slams a door in my face has no idea of whom they are dealing with. Here is an idea: if you want to get a bull OUT of a china shop, don’t lock him in or out of the shop.

I awoke this morning to the wonderful smell of a hot breakfast. I looked at the clock and it read 4:39 am. I have a thing for numbers, so right there I wondered what 439 meant? I tossed that thought aside and descended  a vertical set of stairs in pitch dark that were built in 1896. My eyes were still not quite open, I was holding the walls for support (no handrails) and gently coaxing Isabella to stay 4 steps behind lest we both take a tumble down into the dark, hard planked void.

Either house guests had arrived early and started cooking, or else my son had somehow miraculously gotten up at an ungodly hour to make a meal. Either way, my stomach was growling as the smell rose to the second story. As I exited the stairwell I intuitively gauged an emptiness was about to envelope me.

As I went from room to room in the dark house, there was no sign of life. Yet, I could smell the food, I could sense someone or something breathing and watching me. I assessed the risks and called out for my son. No Answer. I called out for his dog, no answer.

I then formed a plan and started a search. I started in the laundry room, moved into the office, checked the dining room, the second office, the living room, then the kitchen. The stove was still warm and there were dishes in the sink; signs of a meal eaten not too long beforehand. I then checked Blakes room. My heart sank as it was empty.

All the cars, car keys and house keys were present. I rang Blakes cell phone and heard it ring in his office. I turned on the light to find his cell phone, watch and wallet lying on his desk. I then checked the porches. Back porch- clear. Front porch- I tripped over something.

 I turned on the light and there was Blakes Yellow Lab sternly sitting at full attention, obviously standing guard and not willing to budge. I looked down at her to see if I could get a read on the situation at hand. She did not seem anxious, she was not grabbing my hand to track him or signs of trouble. It was what she wasn’t telling me that I seemed to understand with a sixth sense. Obviously, Blake had headed out the front door recently; but why?

For a normal family, this situation would not mean anything. Yet in this family, it meant everything. Memories of past events in Blakes illness flashed before my eyes, pain welled up in my heart and all I could do was try and piece the puzzle together. I headed to our “sports” closet and noticed one of the largest rucksacks was missing. No gear seemed to be missing, just the sack. That was a good sign, it meant he wasn’t going extreme.

I turned off all the lights back off and sat down on the couch. I watched the gorgeous foliage sway gently out the large front window from this old house I bought, in a strange place I wonder if I will ever call home. I contemplated my decision to leave the ranches; to start the medical corporations in order to help others overcome obstacles we had hurdled, then suddenly I felt hauntingly hollow.

 I knew this day was coming, but I did not know it would be today. At some point, I would have to begin living my life again, fufilling my dreams and resuming my passions. Once you’ve been hit by a trauma,  Its’ alot easier to jump out of life, than it is back into life. It was my turn to jump back in. At 4:45 am I came to this full realization.

As soon as I sat down on the couch, both dogs came to my side. My trusted black lab at one side, Blakes stubborn yellow lab at my other side. It looked like whatever was going to happen, the three of us were going to participate in this party together. This was a given.

Around 5:45 am Blake came bounding up the wide fronch porch and knocking at the front door. He was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, running shoes and had the rucksack on his back. I let him in then casually resumed my position on the couch between the two dogs, who had not budged.

Blake opened the sack and took out three heavy logs he had picked up from our woodpile. I wanted to be supportive and not wanting to sound too overbearing, I said in a gruf voice “You better get those nasty insect infested rotten logs off my Ethan Allen Rug RIGHT NOW and out of this house”!  He said “Ok, but I  really need to weigh them first”.

Then, all I could think of was those rotten logs on my brand new expensive scale. (The scale is another story). Then it hit me. My son had just gone running with a rucksack on his back with weight in it for the very first time in 10 years. After he weighed the logs, he sat down on the couch. I asked him what he was doing and what he was thinking. Was he cleared to run by the doctors yet?

He told me,  “Mom, it is time. Time to run again. Time to live again. Time to be disciplined again. Time to get back to life again”. I have to do this.

Just as that puppy in the photo above grew up to be one of the most stubborn yet lovable Labrador’s; my son also matured to battle his own demons. He is now ready to take on life on his terms and fight to get his life back, the way he wants it.

His reply made me realize that a decade later, my fresh start began at 4:39 am on July 4, 2012. It was time for me to pick up the pieces of my life and begin fresh.