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Friday, March 28, 2014

The mountains are calling! Much adieu with Crested Butte

AMAZING!  I enjoy these trips so much!  Everyday is a brand new experience.  I love everything about traveling, from the Invariability of arriving on time, to wandering around different airports in my wait, for my next flight.  I also landed early, which never happens.  Only about ten minutes,but still, nice! Getting off the plane in Gunnison, I'd begun talking to an older gentleman, inquiring about which mountain I was headed to.  It seemed that we were both headed to Crested Butte.  The conversation then turned to Saturdays Madis Yahu concert.  Apparantely, his son was in, or managed the band.  I said I was planning to go with my friend, although did not have my ticket yet.  He offered to allow my friend and I VIP access, so I gave him my email, and promptly forgot about the interaction, as I located Maggie.  I was slightly thrown off by her Crested Butte Fire Department attire, but she had just finished a shift, on duty as a paramedic.  As soon as we got in the car, she informed me of my rigorous schedule, for the next 5 days, and I could not have been happier to hear, that I didn't have a free moment, the whole week.  My idea of a vacation, is to have a jam packed schedule full of adrenaline laden activities, and lots of social activities, as that's nearly the opposite of my day to day life.  I knew going into it, I needed to be mindful of the amount of sleep I got.  I was super excited to see Maggie's new place, which still featured a stairway I needed supervision on, though was bright, open, and spacious.  And, to boot, a spectacular view of the mountains, and direct sunlight.

We arrived to her condo around 8:30,  and chatted a bit, before I crashed.  My alarm, went off at 7, and was particularly unwelcome, but as I opened my eyes to blazing sunshine, I remembered where I was, and what my day held in store.  I was slow moving that morning, and the coffee stop was necessary, I've suddenly become a coffee drinker, I'm not too pleased with myself for that, although, it made the morning, all the more glorious.  Going back to the adaptive sports center is always a treat.  It's teeming with energy, and I'm beginning to remember more faces, and names, finally.  and Each trip, I get meet many new faces too.  I was working with Marc squared, which soon becacame Marky, Marc, and the funky bunch.  Guess who I became, in this equation?  'The funky bunch'.  It took me a few days to embrace it, but we all had fun with it.  I worked with Marc D. last year, and was pretty excited or the continuity, and somebody who already had a grasp of my abilities, and difficulties.  It still pisses me off, the first few runs, as I remember I have to wear a seizure belt, on the lift, because I suffer seizures.  There are so many seizure disorders, I understand the precaution,  I just don't agree with it, in my case, as I know when I'm in danger of seizing, and couldn't be moving, let alone getting on my snowboard, in that state.  Oh well, I get it,  it just evokes terrible memories, and takes me back to a time where I needed constant monitoring, and supervision to ensure that I didn't acquire more injuries.  It often seems surreal, to be out having these incredible experiences, considering how incapitatated I was 6 years ago.  I just have to deal with the safety precautions.  As soon as I became distracted on the lift, taking in the view, and bantering about the answer to the trivia question, it was nearly forgotten.

That first morning, the conditions were atrocious.  Hard ice, with a millimeter of snow covering.  Just like the mountains in Maine, where I learned to ski, growing up.  I wondered if I was trying to ride a glacier.  I had a hard time, as I couldn't stop, and we all know falling on ice HURTS.  I was not feeling brave, or ready to make my own turns.  I was overly cautious, which also makes me fall, so, I'd had it after trying once, to make my own turns.  Not, the best start, for my morale, but taking in everything else, it was a great day, we grabbed dinner at the resort, and must've met 4 new people in the course of eating.  It's a small community, so it seems Like Maggie knows everybody.  It's always fun, but I do not like meeting people while I'm eating.    Oh well. It happens everywhere,I should be used to it.

I went to sleep, as soon, as I could, upon returning.  I love being so busy, I'm exhausted, by the end of the day, it's so gratifying.  The next morning, I awoke with sunrise again, peering out the window, to see a dull glow behind the mountain tops.  Maggie blended us these power smoothies.  I had no idea what exactly was in them, but they were an awesome start to the day, on top of the granola I also had. I felt as though I was always eating, and it was all great food.  We stopped for the morning coffee ritual again, while Maggie detailed my insane schedule to me.  She was off to Denver for a  hockey game, between Boston, and Denver.  I'd been invited, but preferred to spend my precious time in the mountains.  It sounded like they had a great time, which made me happy.  I love hockey, just not nearly as much as snowboarding.

I rode with Marc squared again, and while it was a tougher day, for me physically, we made the best of it.  The first run was a hand held asisst, where I hang on for balance, and to prove to myself, I can make it down.  The second run, I opted for hand held asisst again, instead of working on my own turns.  We were making a turn that felt slightly choppy, when I suddenly collided with Marc, and literally saumersaulted over myself.  Talk about dad zed, and confused.  In that moment, I was so thankful for my helmet.  We both fell pretty hard, as we'd caught an edge, and had gone flying. Tthe lunch break was perfectly timed, so gathered ourselves,headed in.  Friday was the first day of ladies camp,  so we all got to catch up a bit, over lunch, get reconnected, and swap stories.  Lunch passed very quickly, and soon enough, we were back on the slopes.  I saw very little of the ladies out skiing, but I also have difficulty visually processing more than one event at a time.  I have a hard time directing my efforts into the physical act of speaking, while doing another physical task.  I'm sharp, but I have a hard time completing 2 physical tasks at the same time.  That afternoon, I opted to try the sit ski.  It was very different.  I couldn't liken it  to anything I'd previously done.  I fell only once, even though I had a very difficult time trusting my left side.  I had keep my focus on using my left and right equally, and my left side has to work twice as hard.  I'm the sit-ski newbie, being the only snowboarder, I can't ever relate to their experiences, or stories.  Also I got to see a lot more of the mountain.  I was really happy to have tried it, but for now, I'm pleased with trying to regain my snowboard abilities.

Dinner that night was hosted by an adaptive volunteer, who goes out of her way to welcome us, and share her life with us.  Her generosity is overwhelming, as she had 10 of us over for dinner, and prepared 3 fantastic quiches, salad, and to die for brownie sundaes.  Over dinner I found myself talking about my writing aspirations, and Sandy told me about a conference at the local University, Western State.  I'm still looking into it, but what could be better, than writing in a inspirational setting, surrounded by so many brilliant writers?

That night, an adaptive intern, Hanna,  had kindly volunteered to help me out, at Maggie's. At first I was nervous about it, only because I didn't know her, though many of the adaptive staff only had great things to say, and she was in fact, a warm, friendly gal, with a kind heart.  It just can be nerve racking to find yourself in the care of a new person.  Given some of my poor past experiences, it's not the easiest thing for me to go into a situation like this with an open mind.  Although, I was able to recognize that his was a very different situation from what I'm used to, and tried to see the best in the circumstances.  And, of course the moment I met Hanna, my uneasiness dissipated.  She was easy to talk to, and great company, just as I'd been told.  The next morning we got ready to go, and zipped out the door, in record time.  I had breakfast plans with Elaine and Julie,from our ladies camp group.  They were staying at the Grand Llodge, which had a fantastic brunch selection.  Brunch, is without question, my favorite meal.  A staff member kindly helped me carry my plate, and acquire way too much food.  I enjoyed my oatmeal, French toast, bacon, fruit cup, and home fries.  Slightly ashamed of myself, I ate it all without hesitation, and attempted to participate in conversation, although eating is still a task that requires a bit more focus, as I have to actively think about it, to ensure that I don't a) choke, b) accidentally inhale food, or c) try to talk, and accidentally spit food out.  Admitting the mental focus, and stamina this injury requires of me, is not the easiest thing, it's just that I find it so frustrating not to participate in the social activities surrounding a meal with friends.

Elaine's sense of humor is fantastic, she loves to have a great time, and make things fun for others.  As she and Julie were staying at the lodge, every morning, staff from adaptive came over to accompany all of us, on the short walk/roll to adaptive.  That was probably my first morning getting on the mountain around 9:30. Even though, I chose last minute to change everything around, and try the ski-bike again.  Physically, it wasn't a great morning, my muscles were tense, and I felt slightly unsteady.  Not the best combination for snowboarding.  I was also slightly sore from yesterday's fall, and was not looking for another opportunity to repeat it.  The  vast beauty the mountain has to offer.  My first year at CBMR (crested butte mountain resort), I did one run, peach-tree, almost every run I took.  The following year, I got to experience more trails, although I still rarely got yo see any of the rest of our group.  I love snowboarding, and am willing to do whatever it takes to get my indepence back, with doing it.  I probably will always need adaptive asisstance, though,I will never lose the drive to keep pushing myself to reacquire whatever abilities I'm able.  I was happy to have the experience, but I knew it wasn't how I wanted to enjoy the mountain.  I don't trust my left side at all, so making left turns was quite awkward.  The mental fears I have in relation to using my left side, it's I never learned to trust in its abilities, due to weakness, and spascity. I usually ask people not to walk on my right, because I find the movement distracting, and feel I'm more likely to lose my balance.  Although, it only happens on my left side.  As always, some days are difficult, others not so much.  I used to get really excited everytime I'd have a recor-breaking good day, because I assumed it meant I was making this grand improvement towards a more mobile lifestyle.  Turns out, there are good days, and bad days with a brain injury.  On my great days, my brain fires on all cylinders, and I feel nearly unphased by limitations.  Then, on a bad day, I need help in the kitchen, or paring food, serving it, cleaning up, getting dressed takes 45 minutes to an hour, because I get so shaky.  I will not ever askfor help dressing, unless it's a difficult zipper, buttons, or tying my shoes.  This is how my body functions, invariably, and spastically.  I've never found the words I felt, summed up my difficulties, until now.  One of the million reasonsI'm so thankful for adaptive programs like this one.

Trying out the sit ski, I got some breathtaking views, and felt all the more driven to improve my snowboarding, and coordination, so that one day I'll be more adept at riding more difficult terrain. That is a dream to shoot for.  I was a feeble snowboarder prior to my injury, never had taken a proper lesson, but it fell in love with riding the snow that way, my first time out.  I grew up skiing, but from the moment I tried boarding, I knew I wanted it to be my preferred choice of mountain sports.  Learning a sport I was barely adept at before my injury, seemed far fetched originally, but thankfully, where the there's a will, there's a way.  This week, Maggie, Marc squared, and the entire adaptive community helped me realize this opportunity.

That evening Madis Yahu was playing a show at the resort.  I would describe them as a Jewish reggae band, if you've never heard of them.  When Maggie originally asked me if I wanted to go see them, I had to check them out on Youtube. I was immediately struck by their unusual appearance, and sound, so I wanted to see them.  I'm so glad Maggie suggested it, otherwise, I would've continued on in my oblivion, having missed a great show.  The show was outside, at night, and somewhat disorganized.   None of the employees had a clue of how  to help people with questions other than directions, and once we were under the dome where the show was, it was chaos.  No seating anywhere, and an open bar, in the back.  At first we were at the very back, on the edge of the dancing/swaying crowd, watching the opening band.  Maggie ran around looking for something I could sit on.  I felt okay on my feet, thankfully, but 3 hours is a long time to stand in place.  Around the time she returned with a milk crate, I sat down, just as Madis Yahu was coming on, and now was sitting so low that I had a glamorous view of 1,000 backsides, and a cool light show.  Just as I was getting aggravated with sitting, I heard my name, and rose to turn around.  It was the man I'd met in the airport, and he was talking to Maggie about getting us VIP access.  I want to remember his name as John, so that's what I'll call him in this story. I had seen him at the resort twice, and both times had difficulty recognizing him, or remembering our interaction at the airport.  However, in that moment I've never been so thankful for a random act of kindness, like that.  My concert experience was instantly transformed from a slight bummer, to an incredible, crazy, hilarious musical experience.  There was a place to sit, as well as space to stand, stage side.  At one point, the guitarist strolled over to bum a light off someone nearby.  Instantly 3 hand with an open flame in each went up, totally thrilled to have the opportunity to give Madis Yahu a light.  Once hey came on the stage, the time flew by, and the show was over way too fast.

It was so hard to get up, that next morning, and I hadn't even been drinking. The sun was out, and I hold myself, when in Rome, you have yo get out and play, so I got up, hating myself for going out to play, the night before.  As soon as I ate, I felt slightly more human, and the icing on the cake, was the coffee stop I'd begged for.  By the time Iwe got to adaptive, I was using full sentences.  And after our first run or two, I'd entirely forgotten how tired I'd been, waking up.  If only I had amazing adventures to wake up to, more often.  Marc had me rtiding on tethers, that day.  I really wanted to be able to work hard, and have a great day, that Sunday, as it was the last day of ladies camp.  We had a great morning, but I was pooped by the time we came in for lunch.  That afternoon, I decided yo try ski biking again.  I loved it, last year.  However, once I was out there,  it seemed as if  I'd conveniently forgotten how much work it was, and found typically underused muscles whining. 

 This trip, I had my first ever, 'ugh, I'm getting old breakdown'.  I am turning 30 this year, but it's just a number.  I am stressed that I'll hit 8 years post injury, and that I'm still living on government resources.  I finally finished my rehab program, but pushing my way out into nothing,  was obviously not a genius move on my part.  I've been in such a rush to move on, I figured things would fall into place, once I finished rehab.  Instead, I just feel like I fell apart, empty, bored, and full of self doubt.  I remember these feelings, I felt like this the summer I graduated from UVM.  I threw myself into a new relationship, and training for my first triathlon, while going for countless interviews for jobs I was less than passionate about.  Sean was my lifeline, in more ways than one, that summer.  I did eventually find the elusive job I'd been looking for, I I just 'died' before I could take it.  Yes, died is my choice word.  Clearly I'm not dead, and I'm ever so thankful for that, though I did lose any semblance of my independent, active, social, and rewarding lifestyle, to start all over.  I'm so fortunate to be the same mentally (for the most part), and I'm lucky to have the oppotunity to grow, and redevelop, my athletic passions, even if its unbelievably frustrating, and difficult, this is an opportunity that many wish for, but very few have the circumstances, or drive to endure. The harder I work to establish my physical abilities to whatever they may, or not be, it's all success in one way, or another.  This is yet another reason why I look forward to these trips so much, as I gain a new vantage point, from which to measure my growth.  Crested Butte Adaptive Sports  Center   is a magical spot, full of adventure, growth, and a vision for change.  Thank you to all who were involved, or took part.


Julie/Mom said...

That's quite a long awaited post. I am so pleased you are able to do this each year and each year you do improve. Thanks to the Adaptive Sports Center and Maggie and everyone who puts their "all" into this program. Glad you had a great time. Nice post!
Love you the most.

juliemaloukis said...

Courtney - great post! You are a really good writer. We did have fun! See you next year!! Julie

Marti said...

Great post, Court. I continue to be awed by your drive, ambition and positive outlook on your life. Look how far it's gotten you. I also think it's important that you can now see how much progress you've made in the last 6 years.

I admire the tremendous faith you have in yourself.

Colorado seems very healing for you. I'm so glad you get to go every year.

Keep writing! Keep smiling!


Aunt Marti 🏂🏂🏂🌅🗻

Anonymous said...

Wow! You said a mouthful!
Thank you for posting! I love reDing about your adventures and your reflection on how you are impacted
By your injury. You are the best!

Maggie Burke said...

So awesome to read about your trip Court!