Your Scars are Sexy

My 5 year old niece plopped herself beside me and pointed to the pea-sized bruise darkening on her little peach-fuzzed knee. She frowned.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, looking between her and the offending knee innocently.
She pointed at the little bruise again.
“Auntie Anna I fell.” She looked up at me and frowned again more dramatically.
“Oh no…How did you fall?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.
Her frown vanished as her eyes widened with excitement.

“There was a goose!” she exclaimed, and began to explain in the halting and meandering way that 5-year-olds sometimes do how she had gone to a park…or conservation area… or the zoo? and there were animals…and a pond…and fish… and she had tripped running away from…a goose? She was so animated by the end of the story it was hard to tell.

I whistled, “Phew! It sounds like you had an adventure!”
Her tiny body bobbed up and down as she nodded in agreement.

“Sometimes when we go on adventures we get scraps and bruises,” I continued as I pushed the bottom of my pant leg up. A fresh purple bruise was blossoming on my calf.
“If I had stayed at home, I wouldn’t have this bruise, BUT I also wouldn’t have had an adventure.”

She eyed the bruise on my calf curiously, then stuck out her finger and poked it.  Her gaze shifted to the rest of my exposed leg and she pointed to the large scar on my shin, the little bruises that surrounded it and the fresh blackfly bite welts.
She looked at me with wide eyes.
“You must go on a lot of adventures Auntie Anna!”

 

I had completely forgotten about the conversation until later that night when I was getting ready for a girls night out:  I was hesitating over the decision to wear a cute little black dress.  It was laid out on the bed: black and tight and…short.
My beaten up legs would definitely be on full display.

I contemplated my legs in the mirror:

Maybe flesh coloured pantyhose would cover up the scars? 

Foundation on the bruises so they don’t show as much?

 Hm…maybe I could wear tights underneath the dress…or jeans…would that look weird? 

Sigh.  Maybe I should just wear the jeans and skip the dress tonight…?  

Geez, look at these UGLY legs.

The thought caught.
Ugly legs.
I considered them in the mirror.
Were my legs ugly?
They were scratched, yes, and bruised, and scarred.  But did this make them less attractive?

I traced the line of the scar on the inside of my left calf—a reminder of what side of the bike to get off of when learning to ride a motorcycle in Thailand…

Every mark had a story–was an adventure. Just like the little bruise on my niece’s knee.
And she was right, my legs had been on many adventures:
They had hiked through woods and got bitten by bugs, they had climbed rocks and got bruised and scarred, they had rode mountain bikes and got dirty and scratched.

They were legs to be proud of, not ashamed or embarrassed.
They were short-little-black-dress legs.

 

So, to all you ladies out there with scraped knees, scarred ankles and bruised shins…
to all the women with burned shoulders, scabbed elbows, calloused hands and warped feet:

Your bruises are beautiful.
And your scars are sexy.

Show them off, share your stories and continue on your adventures, whatever they may be… 🙂

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My legs: sans pantyhose, foundation or tights

To Sell or Not to Sell: How do you let go of the gear that you Love?

This post is dedicated to JJ, my brother, and anyone else who has parted with a beloved bike, boat, kite, rack, board or other piece of gear
in exchange for other wonderful adventures…

 

“Hey Anna, maybe it’s time you sold one of your kayaks…..?”

My roommate stood, hands on hips, eyeing up the boats taking up precious space in a garage already crammed full of gear.

“I mean, when was the last time you even used them? Do you really need two?”
She cleared a path to the whitewater playboat and creekboat I had expertly tucked away behind a corner of our garage woody and started dragging them out for closer inspection.

“Hey…stop that!” I instinctively positioned myself between her and the boats.
“They are for two totally different types of kayaking…so YES, I do need two.”

She stared at me for a moment (…I was still physically protecting the boats…), shook her head, turned and picked her way out of the garage.

I turned and looked at the boats affectionately.
Sell my kayaks? No way. Absolutely no.
I started propping them back into the corner.
I mean, yeah, so I haven’t used them in awhile….but I WILL. This season for sure. Definitely.
I positioned a crash pad to conveniently block the view of the boats from the garage door.

The thing is…I knew I probably wasn’t going to use them that season. Or the next.
It wasn’t because I didn’t love kayaking anymore—I was the same me.
It was that life had, unexpectedly, changed around me.
After nearly a decade working in the adventure tourism industry, I decided to follow a different career path. I took a 9-5 job. I moved to a small town 4.5 hours away from whitewater. My paddling friends slowly scattered around the country.
I went from kayaking every other day…to every other weekend…to every other month…to maybe once or twice a season. It happened so slowly, so gradually, that I didn’t even realize I hadn’t been in my boat for over a year until my roommate dragged it across the garage floor that day.

Sell my kayaks?
Okay, so I didn’t really paddle anymore.  I talked about it in the past tense, something I used to do. I used to be a kayaker. “Whitewater” no longer made it into my “About Me” descriptions, I couldn’t remember the last time I read Rapid mag, and my “boat rags” t-shirt and boardshorts were in a box somewhere, likely my mom’s basement.
So why did I literally throw my body across my boats at the off-hand suggestion of putting them up for sale?

An experience I had with my brother a million years ago came to mind:

Before he went on his first backpacking adventure, my super-spend-thrift older brother went out and dropped a ton of cash on a brand new, 80L Arc’teryx backpack.
“I did my research…it was the best,” I remember him telling me with a big smile.
And he and the pack went on to have many adventures together around the world.

Fast forward 8 years—my bro is married, has a house, mortgage, 2 kids and a career.
And the Arc’teryx pack accompanies me now on adventures.

After borrowing and returning it for the umpteenth time, I finally asked my brother if I could just keep it.
“No.” He replied curtly.
What?
“I’ll pay you for it if you want,” I said. “I mean, it’s not like you use it anymore.”
His mouth tightened.
“NO.”
“Oh come on! You don’t need it…It’s just going to sit in your basement collecting dust!”
He shot me a sharp look, picked up the bag and walked away.
My sister-in-law came over and put a hand on my shoulder,
“Give him some time Anna,” she said. “He’ll come around.”**

Being older and wiser, I now understand that that 8-year-old pack meant more to my brother than the big-blue-bag-that-held-stuff I coveted. The pack had become a representation—a reminder—of a life before marriage and houses and kids, a life where he was able to drop everything and travel around the world for weeks and months at a time.

And maybe my kayaks were the same?
Did selling my kayaks meant admitting…accepting…that I had changed right along with the life around me? Letting go of the past?

Hm.
So…

I’ve decided to sell one of my boats.

The creekboat.
Because I accept that I’m not going creeking or running a waterfall any time soon.

As for the playboat?

Give me some time. I’ll come around.

 

(If anyone out there is interested in a Jackson Punkrocker let me know)

** P.S–My brother didn’t officially give me the Arc’teryx pack, but he didn’t ask for it back after the last time I borrowed it. It continues to accompany me on many adventures 🙂

 

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The 10 People You Meet Camping

 

  1. The Person who makes and keeps the fire going.
    Holds the poking stick.  Discusses positive and negative attributes of the wood.
  1. The Person who drinks too much and almost falls in the fire.
    May be found the next morning sleeping in the woods +/- articles of clothing.
  1. The Person who forgets everything.
    Popular items include toilet paper, dishcloth, salt, knife, sunscreen, bugspray.
  1. The Person who cooks ultra fancy, elaborate meals.  Usually involves fresh herbs, lime juice and a dutch oven.
  1. The Person who brings the 10-person tent.
  1. The Person who brings the 1-person ultra-light tent or Hennessy hammock.
    Has very expensive MSR stove and thinks Bear Grylls is a poser and a pussy.
  1. The Person who takes photos every 30 min and posts them on social media.  Mandatory photos include: fire close-up, tents from a distance, sun though the woods and feet  (#camplife #greatoutdoors #campfirefriends #roughingit )
  1. The Person who brings the Guitar. Or Ukulele. Or Didgeridoo. Or Djembe.  Or Harmonica.  Etc  Etc  Etc.
  1. The Person who thinks the walls of their tent are soundproof.
  2. The Person who sleeps in their camper vehicle.  Enjoys talking about tiny homes, elaborate storage systems and solar power.

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100 Packs of Ketchup (and Counting)

When I was in school I was pretty broke.
I went to class during the day, bartended nights and lived as cheaply as possible— which typically involved sleeping on a futon in a “room” that was once a shed or a closet, getting around on a salvaged bike with one working brake (spicy!) and pocketing every condiment packet left foolishly unattended by fast food restaurants.
(A special shout out here to Starbucks for regularly leaving honey packs out, and to Panera for its tasty spicy brown mustard!)

A typical “Anna” dinner consisted of reduced-for-quick-sell-as-tomorrow-will-definitely-be-rotten produce from a nearby ChinaTown stall (a mix of mostly unrecognizable foreign vegetables in a clear plastic bag marked with a big red “X”) “sautéed” with a stolen packet of soy or sweet and sour sauce, served over ramen noodles.
Total cost: $1.33.  Win.

One day I came across Ensure and it totally blew my mind: an entire meal’s worth of nutrition in a can for less than $1?  !!!

I bought two 6-packs of no-name Chocolate Royale and proceeded to drink one for lunch and dinner every day.  Sometimes I even got fancy and blended it with a banana.
It worked out really well…until I got really sick.
(It turns out that even hospitals supplement Ensure with actual food)

My next brilliant money-saving food epiphany happened while digging through the reduced bin at the local grocery store:
A small container filled with organic steak, potatoes and greens.
No preservatives. No salt or sugars added. Only 50 cents!

I threw the small jar into my basket and practically ran to the baby aisle–an aisle I had, until this fateful day, ignorantly passed over–where I discovered, in stacks and stacks along the wall, hundreds of jars of nutritionally balanced, pureed meals, each for less than a cup of coffee.

I selected the fanciest ones—salmon, rice and green beans, filet minion, chicken parmesan and pasta—and smiled all the way home at my savvy discovery and the feast I would have that night.

Now…I’m not sure how many of you have actually tried baby food…
I have.
And it is TERRIBLE.

Seriously. I am not surprised babies spit that stuff up: it is absolutely disgusting.
And I really tried to like it:  I heated it up, added salt and pepper, mixed ketchup into it…but it was just totally inedible.

What a disappointment.

Fast-forward about a million years to today:  I have grown into a responsible adult with a responsible adult job.  I live in a responsible adult house and drive a responsible adult car*.  I buy fancy, not-from-concentrate orange juice and wear comfortable shoes.

And I have about 100 little packets of ketchup in my fridge.

Because even though I am responsible adult, I still take condiment packets from restaurants.  Even if I have access to the full-sized versions: if there are raspberry jam packets on the table (not jelly, not marmalade) at least one will be coming home with me in my pocket.  Who knows when you will need a shot of vinegar, soy sauce or yellow mustard on the go?  Or peanut butter?  Or mayonnaise?

Hello, my name is Anna and I am a single-serve condiment addict.

Maybe one day I will grow out of my condiment hoarding.
And maybe one day I will be able to smell baby food again without gagging.
Until then…

ketchup

^ In my fridge
(Yes, I am crazy and bag and label my stolen condiments…dont judge me.)

 

*Questionable

Ice Climbing Confessions

The ice on the weekend had been super rotten and barely climbable, it was now raining and 10 degrees C, and the forecast was calling for a week of more rain and double digit temps….

Ice climbing season was over.

So on March 20, when Spring officially arrived, I put away my ice climbing gear for the season:  I cleaned out my pack, washed my things, lubed my gear, tucked it all away in the gear room and broke out my outdoor rock shoes and harness.
Yeah baby!  Bring on the Spring!*

While I had gone out about 2-3 times the previous winter top-roping on rented gear, I would say that this winter was my first real season ice climbing.

I had all my own gear.  I lead my first ice climb.  And I actually had fun!
(Compared to last year when I was just cold and frustrated, cat-scratching the ice with crampons loosely strapped to over-sized boots wondering miserably why everyone made it look so easy?)

As I reflect on this past ice season, I have some confessions to make.
Things I wouldn’t readily admit too… but will today because I couldn’t come up with any better ideas for a blog post 😉

  •       Every time I go ice climbing when it is really cold outside, I hold my tongue to my ice pick in a secret experiment to see how cold it has to be for my tongue to stick to it (so far, no conclusions)
  •       If I get a cut on my face from shattering ice and someone asks about it at work, I usually tell them I was scratched by a friend’s cat.  It’s easier.
  •       One time, while cleaning, I put a quickdraw in my mouth.  Don’t do that.
  •       If I am feeling lazy and the weather says it will be really cold outside, I will leave my gear in the trunk instead of bringing it inside right away and cleaning it.
    Longest time gear spent in trunk? 4 days.
  •       I believe a day of ice climbing burns all the calories from the french fries, beers, burger, brownies, ice cream and boston cream donuts I eat before and afterward
  •       If I sold all of my ice climbing gear at its full-retail value, I could buy myself a decent new-used car (thinking about this still makes me barf in my mouth a little)
  •       If there is a long approach, I don’t wear a bra because it gets all sweaty in the back while hiking with a pack.  It is a bit awkward later if we go out to a restaurant for food.
  •       I honestly thought ice climbing would make me a stronger rock climber
  •       If you can lead WI 4+ or greater I picture what our children might look like for a few minutes after

Anything you’d like to add to the list?  Oh wait! I’ve got one more:

confession

Picture Confession: I was only waist deep in the snow for the photo.  There is clearly a path dug out on the right we used to get to the climb.

*It turns out this gesture was mostly symbolic, however, as the following week temperatures dropped and stayed between -4 and -12 degrees C.  I stubbornly refused to unpack my ice stuff, so while all my friends went ice climbing that weekend, I took Friday off and drove to Kentucky instead…