America in My Youth – a True Adventure Story


When I was a wee lass, 6 years old, my family moved from Rancho Cordova, California back to Washington State. It was the Reagan years in California and he stopped the massive spending on public projects that had been started before him. Mom and Dad were both reared in Bellingham Washington. Both from logging families. Both hard working, independent people.

Our Little Family in 1961. San Jose, California

Though they had struck out on their own to California, when work dried up for Dad, a heavy construction/heavy machinery operator, we packed up and moved “home”. Dad got a truck driving job in Seattle, a career he would have the rest of his working life. So we moved into a little rental house on 142nd Street South. We had no real money and mom sewed my sister and I dresses for school. Two each. My favorite was black and white checked with some zigzag red trim.

First Grade picture. Sunny Terrace Elementary School, Seattle, Washington, 1967

Our house had a back door we never locked. It was a house built on a lot that had been sectioned off from what once was a family farm. The land had been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jovanovich. They were immigrants from what was then known as Yugoslavia. They had a whole bunch of sons and a daughter. John and his wife Joanne lived on the property in one of three brick houses that had been build for three of the kids. Daughter Maryanne and her husband Tony lived in the second one and we rented the third, owned by Son Tony. Mr. and Mrs. Jovanovich, referred to affectionately by us as “the old folks,” lived in a really cute house down a long drive. They had a magnificent garden in which they grew tons of vegetables. She had a rose garden and he also grew grapes and made wine.

George, Tom, Joanne and John Jovanovich with me at my Fathers Funeral. Bellingham Washington 2013

It was as rural a setting you could get, living on the north runway of Sea-Tac Airport. There was a woods behind the old folks house, a field along their long drive, and a sand pit to the west of John and Joanne’s house.

Those years were filled with playing outside. Even in the Seattle rain. John and Joanne had four boys – Steve, Tim, George and Tom. They were good kids to grow up with. They exposed me to the culture of their heritage and I found it fascinating. It wasn’t uncommon for my friends grandparents to be immigrants. My Nana had an Irish accent, their grandparents had an accent from “the old country” and several of my friends grands did too.

My grandparents, Charlie and Alida Tarr. Seattle, Washington, 1972.

Often we spent the summer building grass forts with chicken wire and the cut grass from the field behind John and Joanne’s. We fried baloney on fires we built, played cowboys and Indians or army. We had toy guns and we knew how to use them. We rode bikes endlessly, building jumps and clothspinning playing cards to the spokes to make motor noises.

We used up every bit of daylight on long seattle days that extended until well after 10 pm — finally giving up the ghost and going inside when we heard the familiar voice of my mother or Joanne calling from their porches. “Karrer-ennn!” Or Tommm-mmmy!” A minor third always separating the first syllable from the second.

Tom Jovanovich and I at my father’s funeral. Bellingham, Washington, 2013.

Sleeping outside in the yard was another staple of the Seattle summer. Sometimes in an old army tent, other times just on the grass or on a tarp. The Jovanovich kids had two dogs – Smokey and Toby. There was also Lucky and our dog Lobo. They would position themselves at various posts as sentries to protect us. Often, Lobo’s assigned spot was under the streetlight out in the field. You could see his silhouette in the light and feel safe.

Carnations. 4th if July, 2018. Las Vegas, Nevada.

One of my favorite summertime memories was planting snap dragons and carnations along the side of the porch that extended out that unlocked back door. So today I enjoy celebrating a country I love, and all the blessings I have had as an American, with some beautiful carnations and the memories of a good life.

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Featured on Slowpoke Divas


I was pleased to be a guest blogger at Slowpoke Divas. Its a great page and blog. Check out my story and all the other good content!

Breaking Through


It’s been seven months since I had my total left knee replacement. It is a hard grind. But I finally feel like I am going to be able to return to my prior life. This weekend was my first weekend that I had two days of big activities for the legs. On Saturday, I did my second 5k walk since surgery.


Maggie and I headed out for the 8th annual Run for Shelter 5k to benefit victims of domestic violence. I got there early and worried about how things would go. This walk was an out and back. Right in the middle was a steep incline followed by a steep decent. Which meant two ups and two downs. I have only don flat walking so far. 


A coworker, who’s wife was running with Maggie, walked with me. And I have to admit that having him there pushed me a little harder. The first uphill pushed me pretty good. But the knee felt great. The first downhill was good too. At that pointI was  into the second mile. I could feel I was slower and after the turn around I also could tell I was getting a blister on the ball of my right foot. 

Having this surgery has been a real adjustment. Shoes don’t fit the same, my fair is different and I am so out of shape now. So approaching the hill the second time was a bit daunting. 


It was already clear to me I had dropped to last place. The organizers were taking down the marker signs. But I kept on and to my delight and satisfaction, my quad was strong enough to support me on the down hill even the second time. 

Because the knee replacement I had required that my quadracept muscle be cut, that results in complete loss of use of it. Days after surgery I still could not even flex it. Try as I might, my brain would say move and it would not. It is the single hardest part of my recovery. When your quad is weak, your leg buckles when you go down stairs. Or hills. So this was a real marker that I am well on my way to full strength on my quad.


After the walk, my ankles hurt and I was really sore. Part was the good kind of sore. The kind that signals you have really done a good workout and it comes with deep breaths of satisfaction.

The other kind of hurt in my ankles, well that is the kind of hurt that tells you to keep working because you are simply carrying too much weight. By this morning my muscles were screaming and my ankles felt a bit better. But I knows I could not simply rest. 


Today I had two things on the agenda. The first was a push-up challenge. It is from 22kill. You video yourself doing 22 push-ups for 22 days in order to bring awareness to the fact that 22 veterans a day kill themselves. I can’t do push-ups as I cannot get on the floor and kneel. So I devised a dip station to do 22 dips. 


I really liked it and think 22 days of it will make a big difference in my upper body. 

After the dips, I was even more sore than the day before. But I still had a 45 minute ride on the recumbent bike. My rides have take. A hit in the last weeks and I needed to stick to the schedule no matter how much my quads and calfs were burning.

I que’ed up The Wrecking Crew on Netflix and started peddling. 


I was doing pretty well considering how rough I felt. But the minutes kept ticking off while Inwatched some of the best musicians to ever play in the LA studios. My feet were uncomfortable and my blister from yesterday was screaming. 


I fought my inner quitter and just kept going. As I entered the last five minutes, time came to a standstill. And I was also worried I would not hit the 10.2 miles I had hit the last time I had a 45 minute ride. 

Finally, the buzzer went off and I was done. As I sat looking at the screen I felt a huge sense of satisfaction. 10.1 miles. Only dropped a tenth of a mile. That was a win. Especially considering how sore I was AND that I had cut 45 seconds off my 5k the day before. It hit me that Inwill be able to do my December hike. I will be able to get back to leg miles so I can go to Spain for my next big adventure. 


Don’t let your dreams go. Keep working. It is worth it! 

Sedona Marks a Beginning


On March 1, 2016 I had a total knee replacement of the left knee. In the year since my “final straw” injury to it, I had meniscus removed, gel injections, rapidly diminishing ability to walk any distance and a lot of pain. I was not able to do my monthly 5k walks and gained weight. On top of the already too much weight I carry, that was deflating. So I underwent what turned out to be the most difficult surgery recovery I had ever faced.

Day 1 Post Total Knee Replacement


I awoke in my hospital room and felt good. Drugs will do that for you. I had been told by many other knee warriors to be sure to take all my pain meds. I had a pain pump and every ten minutes the green light would come on and I would hit that button! 


After four days in the hospital I was transferred to a rehab hospital where I worked three hours every day to get my leg moving again. My surgeon used the quad splitting technique so my left quad would not fire at all. That was my first job. Trying to pump my quad. Then trying to bend and gain range of motion. Scar tissue builds fast in the joint and you have a painful job ahead with breaking that up and getting your normal movement back.

Working to Gain Range of Motion


After 14 days at Health South, I headed home. I was set for out patient rehab three days a week. 

I experienced a lot of challenges early on. How to climb steps, how to go down steps. Getting in and out of a car. Standing from a sitting position. I went to a walker a day after surgery. Four weeks in I advanced to a cane. In the interim I had to wear a straight leg brace because falling from the weak quad giving way could be devastating. Especially given my size. 

My New Knee


Push up to 100 or so days out. I am waking well and decided to take a little vacation. I lost one of my pups, so my remaining dog and I took off to Sedona AZ for a retreat. 


The plan was to take some walks along Oak Creek and see some sights. I would be able to monitor my knee swelling and any pain and get Jack a little more socialized now that he is a solo dog for the first time in his nearly 9 years. 

We walked:

Your Little Slice of Heaven Cottage

Oak Creek

Rain Never Stops Jack



We wine tasted and at at dog friendly places

Oak Creek Winery, Cornville, AZ

Ken’s Creekside Cafe, Sedona , AZ


And we saw great scenery and ancient sites:

Building A, Montezuma’s Castle

Montezuma’s Castle National Monument


But most of all, Cappy Jack and I got to heal a bit from losing our Tashi. He got pampered. And I built some confidence that I will be hiking again. I can begin moving from rehab, to dipping my toe in the water, to my hiking fitness plan as I now move into Camino de Santiago prep mode. No, my recovery is not complete. It will be up to a year to really be done. But I am far enough along to change my mindset and my main focus from acute recovery to getting weight off and becoming fit again! 

Back to the Future: Hike No. 1 Redoux


hikes5

Long flat, steep sluffy area, then the top.

Back in November 2010 I decided to get off the couch and start moving. I had gotten the bright idea to trek to Mount Everest and wanted to do it for my 50th birthday. After consultation with my brother and sister decided I needed prep time so targeted 2012, or around my 51st birthday. So I began hiking around Las Vegas. Hike No. 1 2010 was a mountain, well hill really, behind my house. So five years, two knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery,  trips to Everest and Machu Picchu, 2 years of Plantar Faceitis, death of my father, and both God parents as well as other important people, later I took that trip again. This time knowing that the health of my left knee had parted ways with the rest of my body. But I needed to try that hill again and kick off my regeneration.

Hoka

Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi

So I got me some new boots that I think may help with the residual plantar faceitis  I sometimes feel flare up, as well as the great amount of knee pain I get upon exertion, and set out on REI’s #OptOutside day, the day after Thanksgiving. It was around 40 degrees out and nice and sunny. I took off and the first thing that struck me was that in the ensuing five years, it is clear a lot more people walk through here and ride their mountain bikes as a well worn trail existed where there was one before. Additionally, the monsoon rains over the years had changed the terrain in several spots and made the turn up the sluffy area much more difficult than five years ago.

Hikes2

This hiking/bike trail has developed over the last few years.

 

Either that or I am in severe denial and simply lost the best line of a route. The newly established trail ended up going to the right up a lower ridge across teh wash. I intended to go to the higher bluff on the left. So off trail me and my boots n poles headed. I was incredibly slow, but felt that was more my knee than my overall fitness. That was good feedback. But as I started up steep slippery spots my confidence in my stability waned. The boots were very grippy and performed well. I, on the other hand, did not. I found maneuvering on the steep slope more difficult than it should have been with my left leg feeling like it did not want any lateral twisting or leveraging. At all. None. I tarried on thinking I should simply push for the top as I had fie years earlier. But I also thought that it would be a shame to get hurt because I overshot the limitation of the left leg. And there was still the mile or so, much of which was getting down the steep part, left before this would be over. If you don’t know hiking, coming down can be harder than going up. S

hikes3

Karen A. Whelan Bathing in Sun and Wonderful Weather

o, I turned back. But not before looking at the views, breathing in the cool clean air and letting the sun wash my face in its warm blanket. Yes, even in 40 degree weather, the sun’s warmth cuts through and warms you.

 

As I finished up and got back to the car, I could not help feeling both disappointment and satisfaction all at the same time. I had got out on a hike! My new boots seemed to be what I was hoping. The air and sun felt wonderful. But I did not go as far as I wanted. I had issues that weight loss will help with and I need to build my general fitness. But just like that day in November of 2010, shod in new boots then and with new trekking poles in my grips, I had got started.

Gobble Trot 8 Years Later


IMG_9758-0Back in 2007 when Stacey and I started doing monthly 5k walks, our third one was put on by The Las Vegas Track club called the Turkey Trot. It stands out in my memory because I was lapped by a 84 year old woman. She was nice and encouraging and…well let’s face it, 38 years older than me. I was 46 at the time. Here it is, eight years later and it is turkey trot time again. Stacey lives back east and the 84 year old lady passed a way a few years back. I happened to see her at a few races and then read her obituary. I felt a bit sad, but also inspired that she had spent those 84 years living!

Now I do my 5ks with my great friend Maggie. With Stacey gone it was nice and fortunate to meet her and become good friends. Even better that we hike and walk and even do our adventures together.

This was my third post knee surgery 5k. My goal was to get in under one hour. At the start line we were informed that due to the public works failing to inform the track club of road closure on part of the route, the 5k would be a bit short. I was glad my MapMyFitness app would give me my distance, time and split times as well so I could see what progress, if any, I had made since the Pumpkin Man we did in Boulder City last month. I had done ok in that walk, though my knee was pretty thrashed afterwards.

Maggie Always Makes the 5k FUN!

Maggie Always Makes the 5k FUN!

In my Twilight 5K at Lake Las Vegas I was fresh off a three month hiatus due to knee injury. I had meniscus removed about a week prior to the race. I was still pretty sore and had to use a walking stick for stability. My time was pretty slow. I really hoped to shave a lot off those times month to month. So far, I have!!!!!! Here is a break down: NOVEMBER 5k time was 1:34:46; OCTOBER 5k time was 1:06:50; NOVEMBER 5k was 57:45!! I even had my last mile and partial mile at under 17 minutes, which tells me I have more gas in the tank to use earlier!

TTROTAfter I crossed the finish line I felt rejuvenated. I have not felt this good after a race in about 2 years. My weight is coming off, my diet is excellent and as a result, I am not taken down by a 5k any more. I have 4 months before my knee replacement surgery and I am ready to use it to get as much activity on this old knee as I can before it becomes medical waste. No pain in the now gel filled knee; no joint or back pain; no complete post race stiffness. I was overjoyed by the progress I have made in three months.  My overall time is substantially improved as the knee has improved. The biggest real meter is teh time between October and November. I cut 12:05 from last month. That time improvement from November to October does not tell as much given the surgery was a week prior. o looking from October to November makes me see that there has been improved health with better eating and more exercise in between 5k events.

SECOND MONTH OF PRE-KNEE REDUCTION


IMG_9352I completed my first month of concerted effort in weight loss and healthy eating with a 16 pound loss, a new gym membership, and a perfect paleo/primal eating habit. It felt very good and though I was happy with the 16 pounds, it came in the first 20 days with ten days of nothing more. So for November, month 2 prior to knee replacement surgery in the spring, I will not step on the scale. I will continue to log everything I eat on MyFitnessPal so that I cannot lie to myself about things. But no scale until December 1, 2015.

I am feeling pretty dang good. No sugar is always  a better way for my brain to function and my energy to increase. I have the last two 5k’s of the year scheduled and am hoping to get on the bike as well.

pizzacrustThe other night, I was ecstatic to eat…..wait for it…..PIZZA!!!!! I got a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust. It was FANTASTIC! I felt like I was CHEATING it was so good! It only took a few minutes to rice the cauliflower, heat it for ten minutes in the microwave, and add the eggs, cheese and spices. The bake on it was great and it held up structurally. I even heated it the next day for lunch and it still held up and tasted great. So, if you are going grain free like me, this is the bomb! I am also going to make the breadstick version the link above tells about so that I can snack during the football game this weekend. So now my two favorites that I miss on paleo/primal diets are covered: Pasta, where I use zucchini instead, and now pizza crust with the cauliflower. I have made cauli mash and cauli fried rice for a while, but this new crust will pizzaenable me to make “tortillas” for tacos and to use as bread for sandwiches as well.

So month two is producing all sorts of results even if I do not know about the number on the scale. I am getting comfortable with the food lexicon I have and not missing the things I thought I would. I get plenty of fiber and lots of good fat as well.

Everything Hurts and I’m Dying!


Cut 18:11 off last month's 5k time!

Cut 18:11 off last month’s 5k time!

It was monthly 5k time again and we went out to do the Pumpkinman 5k. This is a race by BBSC Endurance. These are fun races for a variety of reasons, You get to choose the charity your money goes to, and there are multiple combinations of events you can do: Tri, Duoatholon, half marathon and more. We signed up for the 5k, and it was a good choice for me. Not ready for anything bigger at this time.

You may remember that in my last race blog, I told you about a very inspirational lady who was really working hard to do these events. She was back at this event and told me she took 40 minutes off her time that night! It is worth going back to read about her! She looked great on this 5k and didn’t even have a rest chair along with her. If that is not inspiring, I do not know what is!

So we started the race and it was pretty uneventful. I have gotten to know just how I will feel in each of the 3 miles on a course and that is a good thing for measuring progress.

The race was in Boulder City, Nevada. That is the town where all the workers who built the dam lived during it’s construction. It has no gambling in it as there was a fear the men would lose all their hard earned money if there were gambling. As we left Wilber Square in Boulder City, we were instantly in a quiet residential neighborhood right on the border of the desert. You would have no idea you were anywhere NEAR Las Vegas by this quiet little town. Old fashioned sprinklers quietly watered nicely manicured lawns surrounding cute bungalows.  IMG_9541

As I reached the turn around I felt like I was doing pretty well. The next mile would be a steady uphill and I worked hard as I slowly pushed up the hill. Suddenly I felt a pat on the back and two men passed me running with a smile and a thumbs up. They were wearing Raw Fitness t-shirts! It is great to think how much young people support people who are in far less condition than are they and encourage us to fight on. I cannot even tell you how many “atta girls”, and  “you’re almost theres” I got from people as they ran past me. I found that the encouragement prevented me even wanting to check the Map My Fitness app for my progress. I was moving and I was working and it felt good!

I did at last cross the finish line a midst cheers and a few laughs! I was going slow enough for the crowd along the finish strip to see my shirt, which read “EVERYTHING HURTS AND I’M DYING!

As we left the finish line and walked up to have a bench and a cold bottle of water, we met Bonnie Perrish-Kell of Slowpoke Divas. We talked about women “of our age” moving and playing and adventuring. Her site is wonderful! Take a look at it!

After the race, my bum knee was pretty beat up and I found myself hobbling more than I had expected. But then, I guess that is why I am getting a new new one in April. Hot shower followed by ice and Alleve. A routine I am very used to for sure.

With My Finisher's Medal From Pumpkinman 5k 2015!

With My Finisher’s Medal From Pumpkinman 5k 2015!

I have a real long way to go. I have more work to do than I can even think about. But the good thing is that I only have to think about the small bits of work that build together to make the big chunks of work which culminate in the overall completed goal. And in the end, I have a healthier me with great memories getting there!

What is This Thing I Will Do? This Camino de Santiago?


Routes to Santiago. Though any approach is a route, these are the ones people plan for and do in this modern era.

Routes to Santiago. Though any approach is a route, these are often the ones people plan for and do in this modern era.

People do pilgrimages for a variety of reasons. Some go for the adventure, some for the tradition. There are those who have religious reasons and some with no religious connection at all. There are as many reasons, more reasons even than there are pilgrims doing the walking. Some walk, some ride bikes. Others use public transportation all the way to the destination itself. I have a whole passel of reasons I want to do it.  1) I like to pick adventures that challenge me and are epic…to me. 2) I love the ceremony and tradition of the Catholic Church and want to further get back to my Catholic roots. 3) I have neglected my spiritual side for some time and want to reconnect with it. 4) I want to walk more days than I would have had I not flown out from Base Camp in 2012.

When I was in Nepal, I had my first experience walking day after day

Mane and Me, High in the Himalayas.

Mane and Me, High in the Himalayas.

mostly alone (aside from my wonderful Sherpa, Mane who spoke little to no English). It was a wonderful experience, no noise but the sound of my boots to the trail, the wind coming down off the highest mountain on the planet, and the slow, ambling ring of yak bells.  The Camino, as most people refer to the Camino de Santiago, will be a mixture of that isolation of Everest; the tea houses of Everest will be somewhat like the villages and Abrugues at the end of the days, and then the culmination at a place I really, really want to see. In the Trek it was Base Camp and sleeping on the Khumbu Glacier. Here it will be the cathedral, the mass, and the thought that the relics of an Apostle just might be there.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. Some would think it silly to flay from Las Vegas all the way to Madrid just to take a bus to Leon and then walk 200 miles. Others think it is sacrilege not to do that. So to each their own. I am excited by the fact that in my 50’s I can continue to battle through health issues and creeping up in years by planning meaningful life adventures for myself. But I also invite all of my friends, with all of their various positions and opinions to follow

The Three Amigos at Zion 2013 doing the Narrow.

The Three Amigos at Zion 2013 doing the Narrows.

along with me. It is 23 months before I set out. And in the mean time I have big things to do: a little knee replacement in April, a couple trips to the top of Mount Charleston, Half dome, maybe another run through the Narrows, a hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, lots of 5ks, 10ks and half marathons and just a bunch of training. This thing is more internal than external. I read all the time that the walk is very transformative. I felt that in Everest. Look hard enough at the things you do and you can learn new things about yourself.

Here Come da Judge


Getting involved in the Camino de Santiago and various communities associated with it has reinforced the fact that we all judge. Even telling others not to judge is….well…..judging. I have read several posts in the last couple of days in which the poster posits an idea, whether snobbishly looking down on others for using taxis or bag service, or whether simply asserting our way as better than the way the poster has done something….it is all judging. After all, if we read something and draw a conclusion in our mind that we know a better way, or that what they poster has said they did is not up to snuff, we have judged them. Of course no good case of judging would be complete if we didn’t make our position regarding things very clear in our own post. I am guilty too. We rest on the idea that God says “Judge not lest ye be judged”. But does that mean we are never supposed to judge? I say resoundingly NO! We make judgments that God would be very happy with every day: whether to be nice or not, whether to help someone, who to vote for, when to speak or not to speak, what to pray for, and on and on. In a Christian world view that holds to a pretty dogmatic stance that there is right and wrong, it is hard to also apply a layer of in between in appropriate areas. If I am walking the Camino and I see people with lavish luggage who appear healthy laughing it up and taking the last bed in the Albergue whilst I am arriving dog tired, blisters on my feet, back pack nearly worn out…I am likely going to make a very uncharitable judgment. It is human nature to want things to be fair. And it seems people who look well healed and refreshed taking the last bed is not fair. We don’t live in a fair world, we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we just have to understand that and make the best of what we can do rather than grumble about the things we cannot change. After all, our grumbling only effects us, not the “offender”. Not to mention the guys with all the luggage and a ride may have gotten gifts or worked extra jobs to buy nice things for a once in a lifetime trip.

I was in Nepal and was in and amongst the hard working Sherpas. Most were farmers who guided and ported and shepra-ed for extra money. They lived a simple life and people back home thought they were poor. They judged them by an American living standard. But they were not poor and it was sort of ethnocentric and condescending to judge them that way.  Here in America it is not uncommon for people to work multiple jobs to better their families. We are not unlike them.

I was in Peru and found myself ill-prepared and unable to do the hike I went there for. One of the people on the tour took me aside and said “I knew when I first saw you that you could not do this hike so just bow out so our hike isn’t ruined.” I was appalled. I had taken most of this body all the way to Mount Everest but he judged me by my looks. Furthermore, I would have done nothing to ruin the hike of anyone else. But these are the things we deal with when we choose to interact with others. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. I did bow out and made other plans during the core of the hike. When we all reunited at the top of Machu Picchu, I had been happy and transformed my misfortune into a wonderful trip anyway. He was miserable, grumpy, and glad to be done. He could say he did it. I could not. But it didn’t seem like he experienced it. I wanted to experience it and will one day. None the less he did achieve his objective.

Not all of us approaches things the same way, and that is ok. We can have an opinion about that, but it does not invalidate the other’s approach. Most especially when it is a matter of ones experience in an activity. Some church people are very demonstrative in their appreciation of God. Others more placid. Does either of them experience God less? Different strokes for different folks. To each their own. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Live and let live. And lastly….embrace the differences…..

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