Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Family Traditions

I don’t remember how old I was the first time my parents took me and my siblings camping at Spirit Lake. I do know I can’t remember ever not going to Spirit Lake in the summer when I was a kid. So I’m going to say it’s been about 40 years that I have been participating in this family tradition. For the past 20 years I have been taking my own daughter,Jessica, and the past two years have included the attendance of my granddaughter, Petra.

Spirit Lake is not for everyone, as the air is thin, there is no running water and cooking breakfast can be a morning-long event. Coffee is made over Coleman stoves or an open fire, dinner often involves a stick and some sort of processed meat, and the main source of entertainment is a trip to the lodge to see what everyone else is up to. There is no reason to rush at Spirit Lake, and the altitude has been blamed for killing brain cells, thus removing any thoughts of stress, angst or irritation of everyday life. Life is good there, and sometime in my life Spirit Lake became “my” place. All of my friends have made the trip with me to experience the magic, at least once, although apparently not everyone is as enchanted with the place as I am.

This year’s trip began with some mild drama, as Jess and I vehemently argued with the navigational app lady who sent us circling the I-70 on ramp rather than just getting us on our way. After a little cursing, wondering and a few blocks, we turned her off and relied on Jess’s atlas. We had a relaxing drive across Colorado, en route to pick up my childhood friend Kathy. Kathy is one of my trusted “Grand Council” members, and has had a great influence on Jessica’s life. I knew this trip would not only be entertaining, it would be epic.

This trip was a “girls only,” at least for the first four days. After which time Robert and Jess’s significant other would be joining us. After stopping in Vernal for food and provisions, we headed to Spirit Lake in separate cars. I had Petra in tow in hopes she would nap along the way, and Kathy and Jess tied up some loose ends in town. As soon as I turned off Highway 191 onto the road to Spirit Lake, I rolled down the windows and inhaled the fresh air.

The next few days were pretty much the ultimate Hen party, full of hours sitting around the fire, hiking through the woods, cooking, cleaning up and generally doing a whole lot of nothing. Petra made friends with the little girl whose parents were running and living at the lodge, and we made friends with just about anybody who passed our campfire. We took our annual boat ride, which involves me protesting loudly and adamantly about my fears and the lack of safety of boats. Jessica won, as usual, and I found myself with a death grip on Petra as the four of us rowed about the lake. Naturally Petra was not okay with me holding onto her life jacket, and insisted I “move away” so she could sit by her mom and be a big girl.

People from all over the world come to Spirit Lake, and most of them begin their conversations with “last time I was here.” One morning I was taking a short cut along the stream toward the lodge to get some water, and as I came around a corner I came within about ten yards of a giant male moose. Moose are a common sighting at Spirit Lake, and my family  has had several run-ins with them, but this was my first up-close encounter. I slowly backed away and headed up another trail, which took me directly through another camp. As I reached the edge of the camp I came upon two young boys, about eight or nine I would guess.

“Sorry,” I said. “But there’s a moose in my path so I have to go around.” The oldest of the two got a scared look on his face, his eyes got big and he looked toward where I had just come from.

“When I was here last year there were 50 mooses.” He said enthusiastically.

“Oh wow, that’s a lot,” I said.

“Yeah, and I wasn’t scared at all.” He said proudly. “But this year, I asked Siri about moose,” He paused and blew out a breath dramatically as he ran his fingers through his hair. “And Sheeeesh. Sheeeesh.” It was clear Siri had taught him about his previously unknown dangers of moose. He quickly went the other direction, back toward his camp and the safety of his father’s supervision.

The trip gave me plenty of time to ponder. Mostly about my life. My life now, my life when I was younger, and my life when I was young. There was a moment when Jessica and Petra were standing out on the dock looking into the lake, that it was clear to me each phase of my life, at least vicariously, was present at Spirit Lake this year. I remembered being there as a child, then as a young mother in charge of a child, and now as a grandmother in charge of a young mother who is in charge of a young child. The dynamic kind of blew my mind, and brought tears to my eyes. It’s long been said that “the minute we are born we begin dying,” and naturally as I grow older I can’t help but fear my ultimate future, which, like everyone else, ends with death.

But watching those two–my child and my grandchild–standing on the dock, I was overcome with a sense of peace, almost joy, as I realized that ultimately I will never be completely dead. I caught a glimpse into the future, and saw generations upon generations standing on that dock. Parents holding their children’s hands, and the little one saying “Mommy, tell me again about Grammy Deans…”

 

 

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August 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death By Packaging

I had always believed my death would be noble, exciting, tragically romantic. But, no. I’m pretty sure the culprit of my death will be simple packaging. Either I will get a flesh eating infection from cutting myself trying to liberate my daily vitamins, or I will simply starve to death because I can’t get any of the packages that contain life-saving nutrients open.

In an effort to prevent my death as long as possible, I, like many middle-aged women, decided it was time to start taking a vitamin supplement. It’s literally a hard pill to swallow, because it means the time has come that your body is holding out on all the wonderful things it used to give you in your youth. Such as, oh, hormones, vitamins and the stuff that keeps your bones strong. (At least that’s what the bottle claims.) So, anyhoo, I woke up convinced that I was doing the right thing, and this was one step into prolonging my life.

Until I tried to open the bottle. There was a clear wrap sealed around the cap—no tab to pull, no perforated lines I could see, (even with my reader glasses). Just a slippery, tight seal. No worries, I grabbed my trusty kitchen knife, pried up the seal, which, by the way stretched and refused to break until I was literally holding it down on the counter and using all my might. Finally I poked enough of a hole in it to slice it off. I pulled the cap off and damn! There was another tight paper seal covering the top of the bottle. This one did have the tiniest tab that was meant to be used to pull the top off, but it was too tiny to grip with any strength, and as I tugged at it I wondered what people who have arthritis do. What would I do ten years from now? But again, my trusty knife saved me, as I speared the paper and pulled it off. Then, there was a huge piece of cotton stuffed into the top. At this point I just went directly at it with the knife. My fingers wouldn’t fit far enough in to grasp it, so I just tipped the bottle, speared the offending cotton with my knife and drug it out. Excellent! I quickly doled out the vitamin and took it, hoping it would begin working immediately and offset the five minute of my life I just lost trying to get the bottle open.

In keeping with good health, and being diabetic, I vowed to check my blood sugar even more often than usual. Adding an exercise routine to a diabetic lifestyle is always a little tricky, as healthier bodies usually require a little less insulin, and thus results in more blood sugar lows than normal, requiring insulin adjustments as you go. Not a problem when you plan for it, like I always do, but again, I lost precious minutes from my life trying to get the new box of test strips open. I wonder this—if you put something in a thick box that can be closed with a tab, what is the reason for taping the tab closed with industrial tape? The result is, with the help of the kitchen knife of course, the tab stays completely closed and I end up tearing the box apart around it. It’s like tearing an envelope apart without ever opening the seal. It makes no sense!

At this point I must say that there is a slim chance getting older just makes navigating packages harder. I really don’t think that is the case here. Especially if you’ve ever had to use a pair of scissors, to, you know, cut a pair of scissors out of the package.

So, after a day of taking my vitamin, drinking my tea (which required the kitchen knife to open,) testing my blood sugar and eating right, I felt pretty great when I went to bed. I had stocked the fridge with high protein/high sugar drinks in case of low blood sugar, it had to be better than Oreos or Nutter Butter bars. I was pretty pleased with myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later I awoke to the familiar feeling of low blood sugar. It’s a very distinct feeling that I can only describe as my bones turning to liquid. It feels like my body is shriveling into itself, and is accompanied by a surge of adrenaline that causes tunnel vision, trembling and confusion. Being an old pro, however, I jumped out of bed and headed for the kitchen. I grabbed a bottle of the delicious chocolate protein drink and sat down at the table. The great thing about liquid sugar is that you can pound it like a frat boy pounds a beer and just sit back and wait for it to kick in. Taffy, peanut butter and anything else that is sticky in nature is a nightmare to eat when you’re on the verge of passing out, and to be avoided except in case of extreme emergencies.

I tried to twist the cap of my chocolate drink, and, again, due to confusion, didn’t immediately understand why it wasn’t coming off. I tried, I tried again, then I got up and retrieved the flat rubber gripper thing that helps with tight lids. Nothing happened. Panic-stricken I realized the reason. The damn lid was covered with a clear plastic seal, just like the vitamins! Dammit! After all the dieting and exercising the last thing I wanted to do was eat 1,000 calories in cookies. I tried desperately to find a tab to grab or pull, and seriously considered grabbing the kitchen knife. But, no. It is never a good idea to do battle with a bottle using a sharp knife when your hands are shaking, you can’t see straight and your knees feel like they’re going to abandon you at any time. I calmly set the bottle down and went for the Nutter Butters.

Diabetes is a disease of irony. Sugar, the very thing that can bring us to an early death and is strictly forbidden, is also the one thing that can save our lives at a time like this. To be eaten with reckless abandon until the episode passes, and this particular night it had been weeks since I’d had any kind of sugary treat. So honestly, aside from the scary feeling, shaking, sweating and all that, secretly I sometimes embrace the low blood sugar episodes.

Desperate and pissed about the turn of events, I grabbed a yogurt and a Nutter Butter Bar. The Nutter Butter opened easily, with a small tear of my teeth. The yogurt was slightly harder, but determined, I grabbed the foil seal with my canine teeth and pulled a small bit off. I remembered when you could just pull the plastic lid off yogurt, but now it comes with its super-protective, super tight seal. It was as I battled the yogurt that I saw my death. I would be found in the morning, unopened food packages strewn about the kitchen, some thrown against the wall like an animal in a primitive attempt to release the contents, my final words smeared in the splattered chocolate milk or yogurt…

Alas, I finally freed the yogurt, and in the grand manner that only a panicked diabetic can pull off, I used the Nutter Butter as a spoon to shovel the yogurt into my mouth as fast as I could, eating the delicious peanut buttery spoon with each bite. I obviously lived to see another day, but am considering taking up activism to fight for the equal rights of all people to have access to good food. And I mean access quite literally.

January 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment