Bryce Canyon National Park in the fog

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On one of my trips between Salt Lake and Phoenix I decided to make a slight detour and stop at Bryce Canyon National Park. I was hoping for some gorgeous photos of soaring ruddy cliffs and orangey spires in the setting sun. The weather had very different ideas. The entire canyon was smothered in fog, from the rim you could hardly see anything below.

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On a whim I decided to hike down into the canyon, hoping for a few awesome shots. I was absolutely unprepared for such a hike, I was wearing sandals, no water, and no real rain protection. But, the Navajo Loop trail is just a little more than a mile, descending down the canyon walls, through Wall Street, wandering along the bottom of the canyon with the creek and the pine trees, and then back up again. I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

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This is Wall Street, it’s easy to imagine these soaring cliffs as enormous sky scrapers, right? The trail was wet and pretty slick, I carefully picked my way down the switchbacks, big camera in hand. It’s hard to imagine how enormous these cliffs are, how tiny the hikers seem. But, lawsy, those views!!!

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From the bottom of the canyon looking back towards the rim, I felt like I was in a completely different world from the one at the surface. There weren’t may people there, and it only added to the creepy-beautiful feeling, eerie and other-worldly and heart-breakingly quiet.

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The weather cleared up as I made my way out of Wall Street and onto the rest of the Loop trail, there were cedar trees and sherberty colored stripes and outcropping hoodoos everywhere.

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As I began to ascend the canyon wall, the weather began to make me a little nervous. The drizzle of rain turned much more sleety, it got colder and the wind whistled through the formations. The trail was slick and muddy, my sandals slapped and slipped on the rocks. I carefully picked my way upwards, trying to shield my camera from the rain and simultaneously keep my balance with my very inappropriate footwear. It got foggier and foggier, I could really only see about 20 feet ahead of me when I came across Thor’s Hammer, one of the more photographed formations in Bryce Canyon.

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Within 30 seconds, the fog had swallowed this formation completely. I hurried as quickly as I could back to the rim, picking my way, slipping and sliding on the now completely empty trail. The fog topside was thicker and heavier than before, I was relieved to get back in my dry car and crank up the heat. Even though this was a very quick stop, I really loved my short hike and these images.

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Have you been to Bryce Canyon? Have you ever hiked in the fog? Tell me your stories!

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Chronic

A number of years ago I was in a pretty ugly car accident. It was almost midnight, I was on my way home, and some criminal was leading a high speed chase of at least 30 police vehicles from three different departments (two separate cities and the highway patrol). He ran a red light in a residential area going about 60 miles per hour and slammed into my car, T-bone style. I spun through the intersection, he kept going, cops in pursuit. I found out later that he had stopped a few blocks down the street and tried to escape on foot, only to be caught by an enormous German Shepherd, the crook was taken to the hospital to treat his dog bites, and then to jail, where he languished for weeks. The dog was given a police treat and loaded back into the K9 truck to catch the next criminal. The news reports said the driver was evading police, who were only trying to pull him over for a headlight violation. Uh, that’s not true. The only thing I really remember pre-impact was two headlights coming right at me. But, whatever, I guess it’s good that a) he was caught and b) he miraculously had insurance, not that I knew that for another 6 weeks (because, who calls their insurance agent from  jail), but whatever.

Anyway, as you can imagine, there was quite a bit of damage done to my car (totaled! RIP Daisy, the adorable yellow VW bug!), and to myself. I had pretty severe whiplash, bulging discs in my neck, I felt like my spine was compressing into my chest cavity, my pelvis—which is supposed to be a nice, even, triangle shape—got twisted almost off the base of my spine (yes, really), and my ribs were so far out of place they were literally cutting off circulation down my left arm, which was slowly going numb while I waited for an appointment with a spine specialist.

The day of that accident I was in the best physical shape of my life, I had run 12 miles without stopping, my last long run prior to a half marathon I was signed up for a few weeks later. After the accident, I could hardly walk, and anything more than a block left me in a sobbing heap. I couldn’t sit, sleep, or stand without incredible pain. I spent months packed in ice and going to two (or three) different doctor’s appointments a day, I was in and out of neck traction, trying to prevent my neck from corkscrewing itself into my chest. I lost my job, learned what a jerk my boyfriend was, and–for the first time–about my Dad’s incredible bedside manner.

Fast forward 8 years. I can run again, but haven’t quite made it back to that 12 mile mark. My neck bothers me fairly regularly, but it’s usually something a trip to the physical therapist or chiropractor can fix. I sleep with an orthopedic pillow and often with a wedge under my knees to keep my spine in alignment. My pelvis is…well, it’s a process. Make a “gun” shape with your thumb and pointer finger on both hands, now put your thumbs together and your pointers together, the latter pointing to the floor, palms towards you. See that nice, even triangle? That’s what your pelvis is supposed to look like. Now, take your left hand and rotate it 90 degrees, palm parallel to the floor. That’s what happened to my pelvis. Your pelvis is a joint—granted, one that isn’t supposed to move all that often—in women it is supposed to unhinge a bit for birthing babies. So, I didn’t shatter my pelvis, I just hyper-extended it in a major way. And sometimes, despite YEARS of physical therapy, it slips out of place and needs to be popped back into place. Yes, it’s as painful as it sounds.

That experience aside, post-accident my biggest problems come from my ribs. Ribs are also joints, but again, not ones that are supposed to move very much, just enough to allow you to take a deep breath without anything breaking. During my collision-induced spin I managed to yank my emergency break hard enough to stop myself before I slammed into any other vehicles. But, the combination of the spinning car, spinning body, seat-belt restraint, and sudden, violent stop popped my ribs out (8 of them) and tore and stretched the muscles in my back in unnatural ways. My muscles were no longer strong enough or tight enough to hold my ribs in place, and again, despite years of therapy, my ribs do not stay put. I have anywhere from 3-6 ribs put back in place every time I visit the physical therapist. The ones that are particularly horrible are the ones that are underneath my shoulder blades, they pop out towards my shoulder (not in towards my lungs), so every time I move my arms there is what feels like bone grating against bone. Washing my hair is out of the question, simple tasks like doing the dishes or vacuuming bring me to tears, breathing hurts. I can usually find one position, carefully padded and supported by pillows, that will not hurt, and it is not unheard of for me to spend two full days laying there, not even picking up the remote to advance Netflix to the next episode, I just wait for it to advance itself.

Last Thursday my ribs and back were so out of whack I could not brush my teeth, or comb my hair, or sit up by myself. It was excruciating, perhaps the worst episode I’ve ever experienced, and it pisses me off that the reason they popped out was because I rolled over and slept on my side for a few hours one night. That’s it. Seriously. And, my ribs popped out like comically too-tight shirt buttons after Thanksgiving; my pain was at an 8 of a 10 point scale. And, of course, my physical therapist is 700 miles away at the University of Utah. Of course.  I have a couple of foam rollers that I’ve learned how to use to help nudge my ribs back in place. I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t even get myself in position on the roller without sobbing. I was a complete wreck. Luckily, thanks to a recommendation by Kayla, I got into see a chiropractor who managed to force a few of the worst ribs back to where they were supposed to go. I still have a few out, but I can function like a normal human (showering, brushing my own teeth, etc). I have a follow up appointment tomorrow where I hope he can get these last ones back in place.

You want to know the suckiest part about chronic pain? The chronic part. At least for me, there is no real permanent solution. Short of slicing open my back and fusing every single rib to my spine, there is no way to keep them in place (and, uh, that sounds horrifying in and of itself). This is something I will deal with for the rest of my life. A few weeks of general discomfort followed by a couple of days of horrifying, excruciating pain. Rinse and repeat.

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Financial Detox: January 2016 Report

So, a month ago I  wrote about wanting to do a major financial detox and spending freeze and reduce spending in all areas thru January. Well, I tried, and I give myself a solid C+ grade. Not a fail, but certainly not an easy A.

What I said I’d do:

  • No personal spending or unnecessary, thoughtless spending
  • No book buying
  • No eating out
  • No house spending

What actually happened in each category:

Personal: B grade

I actually did quite well in this category. In the whole month of January I only bought two things for myself. One was a potted miniature rose bush that I got at the grocery store for $5.99 because it had been raining and cloudy every day for over a week and I needed something to cheer me up a bit. I also bought a new pair of jeans, cheap ones from Target. I am in the process of losing  quite a bit of weight (more on this later). My fat jeans were either worn to threads with holes in the bum and on the inner thighs, or they were so loose they really didn’t fit anymore. My one-size-above-target-size jeans are still too small, they are pinchy and I can’t sit in them. I didn’t have any in-between pants and found myself without something to wear to a few networking type events. So, I bought a pair of $24.99 jeans to bridge the gap. But! No shoes, no clearance tops, no leggings, no nail polish or manicures or fancy facial cream to try. No coloring books or art supplies or cute earrings or chunky necklaces. No glossy magazines or pretty notebooks. I did not buy all new underwear and bras, or all new gym clothes, even though most of my current things need to be replaced and/or burned in a fire. I believe this shows an incredible amount of progress on my part.

Books: A grade

I did not buy any books this month, something I haven’t done for a VERY long time! I am trying to decide how long I can go without buying a single book and still maintain my own sanity and happiness levels. (Don’t you dare Marie Kondo me on this one, she and I are not remotely on the same page when it comes to books!)

Eating Out: C grade

I was great at not eating out…for the time I was at home in Arizona. But, I totally spaced the fact that I’d be in Salt Lake for a week for work, and ate out lunch every day and two dinners while I was there. I also went to a buy-your-own-dinner networking event here in Arizona and wasn’t committed enough to a) eat before I went and/or b) bring my own dinner to a restaurant. BUT! I didn’t spend money at Starbucks on the daily drink runs with my co-workers, and I didn’t buy dessert (except that one time, okay, twice) which is “extra” of the eating out expenditures…so, not awesome, but not terrible either. And I really only sucked at this one for a week, the rest of the month I did a solid A- grade!

House Spending: F grade

You guys, we had great intentions. And I would like to point out that no additional throw pillows or duplicates of things we already have were purchased. AND I took two full car loads of things to the thrift store (lamps, pillows, blankets, clothes, books, decor items) and sold several via CraigsList.

BUT!

We bought a new California King mattress for Christmas, and after it was delivered realized that we needed a new bed frame…we carefully bought the one that didn’t also require a box spring… but turns out, it totally required a box spring. And we needed sheets to fit the new (gloriously large!) mattress…and a mattress pad, and a bed skirt to hide the ugly bed frame…and it got very “if you give a mouse a cookie” when it comes to bed things. The queen-sized duvet and comforter are still making do as is, but frankly, that is more because I haven’t found a replacement I like and less to do with trying to save money.

Also, after MONTHS of searching, I finally found the rug I want for our master bathroom….and I bought it, on the spot and without even thinking about it, because there were only two of them and one had some weird staining in the corner.

I ordered a pile of custom mats for various frame-able art pieces that I wanted to get unpacked and hung. We have guests coming mid-February and I wanted to make sure all the art was hung and off the floor before then, so I took the plunge (and, can I just say, my gallery walls are looking SO SO GREAT! Decor win, financial detox fail.)  I also printed some poster-size prints of a few photos to hang, and I love seeing them framed and “important” in our home.

I did unpack all our moving boxes but one, and ended up buying some bins and storage containers to help keep the closets tidy. I could have used cardboard boxes, yes. But I wanted those spaces to be done so badly, I ended up biting the bullet and buying the bins I wanted. Seeing my own closet in a state of contained zen gives me warm fuzzies every morning, I’m not even upset about it.

We spent quite a bit at Home Depot, but ended up buying the last of the paint to finally get rid of the horrible yellow-diarrhea-brown walls in this house, and we bought most of the supplies for finishing up the garden planter  boxes in our backyard.

Things we did not buy: plants for said boxes or said yard; the rug and chairs I finally decided upon for the porch off our master bedroom; the lovely throw pillows that would be just perfect for that one spot; a rug for the dining room; extra frames for the gallery wall in my office and our bedroom; a bulldog puppy; a pony.

Ok, so lots of things for me to learn, here. I think a financial spending freeze is generally probably a bad idea within 30 days of moving into a new home. Perhaps I’ll try this again in March and see if I can improve my grade.

Have you ever done a spending freeze?  Would you ever consider it? For you, what constitutes a spending freeze? Not spending ANY dollars outside mortgage/rent/bills/gasoline? Or any unnecessary dollars? How do you calculate grocery bills into that number?

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