Posted in Adventure, Romance, Teenagers

Test Driving The Empty Nest

lakecoupleI recently celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary. We pulled out the photo album, stopped by the winery where we held our reception, and took a little walk down memory lane. We were just a couple of kids with our whole future ahead of us.

And that future included kids. Two boys kept us on our toes for many years. Little League games, swimming lessons, road trips, and field trips kept us moving. We are fortunate to have family nearby and we only paid for a babysitter outside of daycare once.

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Now our boys are grown. Well, my teenager might add an inch or two, and he definitely will fill out in the coming years, but the boots on the ground hard work is mostly behind us.

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Our oldest son is basically living on the river this summer. He’s a whitewater raft guide and is living down in Lotus with the other guides who travel from all over for the season. He needs to do this, and we need to let him, but I miss him. He’s a great guy.

My younger son went to Oregon for the weekend with his grandparents for my niece’s graduation. So my husband and I had the house to ourselves. What did that entail?

A surprise party for the first of his high school group to turn 50. Then we went to Costco, as one does on a Saturday. We stopped by another party hosted by another of his lifelong friends and were home by 9:30.

We did some stuff around the house and then went for a hike. We wanted to take the dog, but she has a bad knee and were worried it would be too much for her. We drove up to our winter home, Sierra-At-Tahoe, and parked outside the gate. We hiked up to the top of the resort, finding four quarters, a penny, two cell phones, two walkie-talkies and several beer cans. We put a few in the recycling can at the top, and carried the rest back down.

We had a lovely picnic and enjoyed the view. The hike was a good incentive to stay in shape as we move into the next phase of our lives. Especially since our golf game is atrocious.

Last night our teenager took us to the movies to see Incredibles 2. It was super. We loved it. We also enjoyed watching the young families enjoy the movie. Especially the dad who watched most of the movie from the aisle, with the three-year-old who didn’t want to stay in her seat. I had a boy who would get up and walk out when he was done–about halfway through the movie.

I also really enjoyed the short film before the movie. I bawled, like I did at the beginning of Up and Toy Story 3. And I totally got where the mother in the film was coming from.

They don’t tell you what to expect when your kids grow up. Sure, there are dozens of blogs about graduation, and dropping your kids off at the dorm. Plenty of tips on what your kids need for the next step, but what about us? How do I prepare to only buy one gallon of milk at a time? Or do laundry twice a week instead of every day? And what even is the point of Costco if there are only two people in the house?

Fortunately, we still have two more years of high school. Maybe longer if my husband stays on as the ski coach. And I have my kids at the elementary school, and while they keep growing up on me, I get new ones each year.

I have my writing, too. I will always have that. And someday, my husband will be my assistant, lugging my suitcase full of books, taking pictures of me with my fans, and inspiring my belief that happily ever after isn’t a fairy tale at all. It just means different things at different times in our lives.

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Posted in Adventure, skiing

Hitting The Slopes

Sunday was my last day on the mountain this ski season. Despite not getting any significant storms until March, it was a great year.

I grew up in Tahoe but didn’t ski until recently. I went once in Junior High. My husband was a lifelong skier and he dragged me along a few times in college. I could keep up with his mother, but she broke her leg in 2000. My kids started skiing around age three and quickly outpaced me. Especially when I only went once or twice a year.

But last year I broke down and got a season pass. It’s so much more cost effective than buying a daily lift ticket. I had bought a pair of skis off the wife on one of the snowboard coaches. She was even nice enough to ski with me while our husbands coached the teenagers.

This year, I skied mostly with the ladies. We started out as ski team moms but soon became friends. You form a bond with someone when suspended dozens of feet in the air on a cable. I’m not completely over my fear of heights, but riding the lift over and over again every weekend helped. And last year, we had epic snow, so it wasn’t that far down.

My oldest son worked as a ski instructor this year. He was great with the kids. We would catch up with him and his group of 7-12 year olds and you could see the smile on all their faces, hear the enthusiasm in his voice when he we encouraging his students. And he was still smiling when he got of work. He loves his job.

Of course, it’s easier to learn a new skill when you’re only three feet off the ground. It was much harder for me to learn as an adult. Especially when I was one of those students who learned things quickly as a kid. Academic things. Not athletic things. I knew in my head what my husband was trying to tell me, but I couldn’t make my body do it. And he’d been skiing for so long, he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just relax and stop snow-plowing.

Skiing almost ended our marriage a few times. But in the long run, it has made it stronger. At a time when many families see their teenagers and adult children less and less, we got to spend more time together as a family. The forty-five minute drive up at 6:30 am, and the hour and a half drive home were times to chat, sing along to Tom Petty, and stop off at Squirrels for our ritual snacks.

My younger son won’t ski with me, but he wears a bright, vintage ski suit, so I am able to spot him from the lift and yell embarrassing things to him. Sometimes he even acknowledges me in the lodge. Usually when he wants some food.

I can’t keep up with any of my boys, but they’ll wait for me at the bottom. And when I’ve made it down the slopes with the wind in my hair, or rather in my face, because I’m wearing a helmet, I feel a sense of exhilaration. Before it was mostly fear and fighting gravity. But most of the time, I feel like I can fly. But I also know I can stop, and most of the time I manage to stay upright.

So until next season, the skis are back in the rafters. Ohh, that means it’s almost rafting season.

 

Posted in Adventure, Baseball, Books, skiing, Whitewater rafting, Writing

What Season Is This?

Yesterday was Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Every few years it falls during Spring Break, so I get to enjoy it as the National Holiday it should be. I watched parts of at least four games. I was very excited to see my beloved San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pitching duel that was somewhat unexpected. Oh, everyone expected a close, well-pitched game between top Lefties Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. But when Bumgarner was hit in the pitching hand late in Spring Training, his Opening Day start went to Ty Blach instead. He outdueled the multiply Cy Young winner, at least on this day.

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And that’s what I love about baseball. It’s never what you expect. At least, the best moments never are.

But it’s also ski season. Finally. Here in California, Winter took her sweet time coming. December was cold but one of the driest I can remember. Several of the high school ski races had to be postponed or combined. The teams to the north of us had to come 250 miles or more to race on the last day of the season so they could qualify for the state championships. We finally got a lot of snow this month. The local resorts are calling it Miracle March.

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But now the weather is warming up and we’re torn between getting up early to hit the slopes before it gets too slushy or sleeping in and taking on the river. My sons did a midweek trip on the South Fork of the American River, so my oldest could sharpen his skills before he makes the transition from ski instructor to raft guide.

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As an author, I’m often working on books that take place in different seasons. It’s always a challenge to try to get the details of sun-ripened blackberries on the river in July when I’m sitting in front of the fireplace in December. Or trying to describe the way the snow swooshes under my skis when it’s 98 degrees in August.

But that’s the wonderful thing about books. They can take you to another time and place, whether you’re reading them or writing them.

Posted in Adventure, Books, Uncategorized

Tales From The River, Part 1

Monday was the Labor Day Holiday in the U.S., a day in which we celebrate having a job by taking the day off. So, my hard-working son took a rare summer holiday off from his job as a river guide, to take his friends and his parents down the Middle Fork of the American River.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had a job they would do on their day off? Just for fun? But that’s a topic for another day.

So, back to the river. We mostly do the South Fork of the American River. It’s easy to just throw a trip together and make a day of it. We did the lower half on Saturday, which was our fifth or sixth trip this year. We got a late start this summer, due to high water in the early part.  The Middle Fork is a more technical river, with one rapid that is un-runnable, and one that is really difficult.

The first big rapid is called Tunnel Chute. Built in the late 1800s by miners, it’s well, here are some pictures of a group that went down before us.


The first boat flipped. The next one made it. 


Pretty intense. Here’s my husband sending our old school bucket boat down without us or the oars. Not so easy to flip. But it has other issues. 

The old girl fills with water and isn’t so maneuverable. Here’s a shot after sending it down the second rapid we couldn’t take passengers down.


The plan was to jump in and paddle hard to the next eddy. My son is used to self-bailing boats that are much lighter when they get to the bottom of Ruck-A-Chucky.  This is another man-made rapid where they tried to build a dam in the 30s. The river isn’t having it when man tries to control it.

So our son’s friend jumped in and tried to paddle to the next eddy, but he ended up going over the next rapid instead. Then we had to pull the boat back upstream so they could make the rapid after that, called Parallel Parking. You think it’s a challenge in a Buick? On the river, there is no driving around the block if you get the angle wrong.

But we all survived, and so did our boats. We lost two of our buckets, though. Oh, and when I spotted it downriver just above Texas Chainsaw, I rolled right on out of the boat. Then I rolled under the boat, kicked off the side of the wall, and had to swim over boulders to the other boat. I thought about staying with the kids. They did have bacon-flavored cheese in a can, but I needed to bail out the oar boat.

Stay tuned for more river stories over the next few weeks. I have a new book coming out September 19, and some of the river tales are based on real life events.

 

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Posted in Adventure, Books, Road Trip, Uncategorized

Don’t Get Swept Away If You Find Yourself In Too Deep After Diving In

 

I write Romance. The tagline I’ve come up with for my books is “Adventure Sports Romance.” This describes both my baseball books and my whitewater rafting series.

I feel like I need to write a disclaimer about my rafting books. My books are more heartwarming than heart-stopping. Kind of like rafting in normal years, where you have a few exhilarating moments scattered along with stretches of beauty and peacefulness and fun.

Even though the first book in my Swift River Romance series opens with a rescue as the meet-cute, the creek Lily is plucked from is really just a small creek, swollen from normal runoff in mid-May. Other than a few bruises and adrenaline overload, she can laugh about the experience over a few beers afterwards.

This year, the river is different. Most years on the South Fork, the biggest risks are sunburn, dehydration, or bumps and bruises from hitting a rock when falling out. Oh, and rattlesnakes. After more than twenty-five years rafting with my husband (with a few years time-out when our kids were little) my only injury was a banged up tailbone from falling out on Troublemaker and hitting a rock ten days before my first RWA National Conference. I still can’t do sit-ups, but I’m okay with that.

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Normal mid-summer flow on the South Fork

This year the water levels are high. Very high.


Notice the helmets, wetsuits, and life jackets. Also, even though this was a private trip, we have two trained guides. My husband has thirty years experience, and my son has done several training trips this spring at high water. While many college kids spent their Spring Break on a beach somewhere slamming beers, my son did a refresher safety course and first aid. He also has a food handling card.

His safety training came in handy over the long weekend. On Saturday, we planned to do a full river trip, which would have taken about four hours at this water level. (I couldn’t tell you what it was running, I leave that to my guides). But the first few rapids were big. And in our old bucket boat, we took on a lot of water. There were no eddies to pull to the side to bail and catch our breath before the next rapid. Also, my husband gave our second bucket to some guys who thought they could just use their helmets to bail. Not a good idea.

Anyway, the river finally slowed enough for us to bail and have a picnic on our boat. The rocks we usually park on are underwater now. My oldest son, the guide, decided to boogie board on a smaller rapid so he put on his fins and got out ahead of us a little ways.

Downriver, on our right we saw some guys with a throw rope and at first thought they were training. Then we saw the bright yellow paddle jacket in the water where they were aiming the rope. My husband quickly rowed to the shore and grabbed his throw rope and ran back up the bank yelling for my son to avoid the bushes as he made his way to shore.

A kayaker had become snagged by her spray skirt on some bushes and couldn’t grab hold of the rope. It took a team of experienced guides, ex-guides, and kayakers to finally pull her free and into one of the other boats. Thankfully she was able to walk with assistance to meet the ambulance that met us at the campground downstream. Fortunately, someone had a satellite phone since cell coverage is limited along the river. Only one company has coverage and residents have fought any additional towers.

She was checked out by the emergency medical crew and as far as I know didn’t need transport to the hospital.

So if you are so inspired by reading my books, that you want to get out on the river, please use an experienced commercial company. I can recommend ARTA River Trips, but there are many other companies with experience and training.

Or if you really want to play it safe, get your thrills from the safety of your eReader.

SWEPT AWAY [23795120]

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Posted in Adventure, Romance

24 Years and Counting

It’s my anniversary. My husband and and I are celebrating 24 years of happily ever after. When we were newlyweds I often joked that we would never make it as a Romance novel couple. Not enough conflict.

That is true some of the time. But trust me, we’ve had our share.

But we’ve also had our share of romantic moments. I’ll share the ones my kids won’t be embarrassed by.

Our first date was to the grocery store. No, really. We’d been hanging out, getting to know each other for about a month, but we always had at least one of his fraternity brothers around. And the fraternity’s dog Buttkiss. So the first time we were alone together was when we made a dash to Albertsons to grab some Diet Coke and ramen between our morning and afternoon classes. I left the soda in his room at the house, planning to go back for it later. And maybe a kiss.

Our first trip together was a long weekend of rafting on the Tuolumne River with his older brothers and their wives and friends. All three of the Mathews brothers were raft guides, and my then boyfriend was trying to impress me with his manliness. He was so cool, he didn’t even need a tent. Which was a problem when it rained the entire weekend. But it was still a lot of fun, and I quickly became hooked on the sport. So much so that he bought me a life jacket long before he bought me jewelry.

Actually, I can’t think of a more romantic gift. It showed he wanted to protect me and join him in an important part of his life. He bought me a new life jacket a couple of years ago, and we’ve been spending more time on the river now that our kids no longer have baseball games on the weekends.

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20 years later our love is still afloat

Our oldest son is off on a training trip with ARTA, the company my husband and his brothers worked for. Several of the guides decided to raft a stretch of the American River that isn’t usually runnable, but with all the water this year, it’s got some big rapids. Really big rapids.

My husband wanted to go up and take pictures along the way. My son was annoyed that we were stalking him. No one else’s mom showed up. And I’m not sure he’s told everyone his dad was a legend in the 90s. So they went down the first run, I shot a short video, and they looked good. Then they hit a gnarly hole. My son is the one in blue.

We ended up taking the kayaks in our truck and making sure everyone made it the rest of the way down.

We’ve had our share of adventure together. Adventure, sports, and romance.

Here’s to many, many more.

Posted in Adventure, Teenagers

Every Day Is Mother’s Day

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Forget Breakfast in bed, flowers, or a card that costs more than all of my eBooks combined. I’ve never been one for traditional gifts. And the men (my kids are teenagers and bigger than me) in my life know that. Forget jewelry, sweet raspberry topped breakfast foods, flowers that will die and I’ll have to clean out the smelly water in a few weeks when I finally discover “what is that smell?”

Sleeping in, having the coffee ready when I finally decide to get out of bed, and letting me watch old movies while I sip such coffee and write are more my style. I wouldn’t mind if my boys plant the bulbs we bought for my youngest’s debate team fundraiser. I enjoy flowers in their natural habitat. My front yard is a nice little oasis, and when it warms up just a bit will be my summer office.

Motherhood is a job but it’s also an adventure. And the rewards can’t be put in a card. I’ve had many moments in my 19 years of motherhood that are more rewarding than jewelry, flowers, or even a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few photos to illustrate why every day is Mother’s Day.

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