day 306.

50 days from now I will lay down for my last hip x-ray (well, last one for a WHILE)... and then will sit behind my doctor while she stares and speaks at her monitor saying...

"it looks like you have not gained any weight so that is good, you should be happy"
"these 3 screws look fine and there is no evidence of a fracture"
"why are you crying? this should be good news. you are going to make me look bad on your way out."

...followed by elaborate surgeon-jargon I will not understand nor remember... if I even hear it at all.

the waiting room, lab, little hard-plastic offices with old fishing magazines and shiny chrome devices... are articulately detailed in my brain from many nervous and tearful visits. recalling them paints a wince on my face - a wince which has matured in to more-than-a-few small wrinkles over the last 10 months.
there are several recoveries this injury has prompted.
...my bone has needed to heal and allow blood to flow.
...my hip flexor rips have needed to fill back in with more magical hip flexor.
...my emotions need to be grasped, broken down, calmed down, cooled down, and put down.
when I hit the pavement on September 13th, I did not cry... or at least, I do not remember crying. Rai asked if I was able to ride back home or at least walk to the sidewalk. and I responded by pivoting my spandex-sealed butt out of the road like a monkey, thus confirming the walking and riding were not possible.

when 3 nurses lifted me from the wheelchair to a bed, my eyes pinched shut (because not seeing equates to not feeling) and I put the subsequent yell of pain the politest way that I could.

when the doctor told me I needed surgery and hardware installed ..."but don't worry, the screws are not from Home Depot"... everything fell out of my eyeballs and I choked on spit and air and forthcoming difficulties and bad surgery jokes.
for the next month, my shit was lost about 20 times a day. my friend who is a nurse visited me one afternoon right as an ugly-cry was gaining momentum. I was a messy pile of assumptions... assumptions that I was not healing properly; I would no longer be able to ride my bike; no more triathlons; no more fundraising races; my dog will hate me; my boyfriend will dump me; me and my bum hip will never find another partner; my friends will leave me because I need so much help; the only people who will love me after all of this will be my parents.
fast forward through many Netflix months later...

the pity-party rave my brain was having quieted.

friends and family held me tight and patiently eased me through new challenges. care packages, notes, and phone calls reminded me I would be okay. the breakdowns became less frequent and I shakily started balancing on those 1 inch road bicycle tires again.
in 50 days it will have been a year... which is what my surgeon quoted as the time required for full recovery. the last time I wanted a year to pass so quickly, I was a teenager in high school sweating in my Chemistry Honors class.

thank you to everyone who lent me a helping hand and / or hip.
I am forever grateful for you.


Pico, Azores: 10 to the negative 12th

pasta with meat, wafers with filling, macaroni and cheese, bacalau, bananas from the backyard.

my mom's 82 year old cousin Mariana presented a buffet of foods to us during our after lunch visit. we informed her we had just eaten and were full but in traditional Portuguese fashion, this was taken on as a challenge: 
what food can I offer not-hungry people that will be good enough to make them over-eat?
sweet waffle cookies and a bag of unopen chips came from the next room.
no takers.

bread and Portuguese cheese appeared.
alright, ya got me.

their cheese-crumbed mouths jabbered in Portuguese as I frantically used Mariana's WiFi to get details on our next excursion.
after hearing my whale watching tour this morning was postponed due to weather, I was determined to do at least one amazing thing today.
Gruta das Torres is a 3 mile long lava tube that formed on Pico island in the Azores up to 1500 years ago. I had - weeks earlier - booked us a tour for today at 16:00h. I was going to navigate us there via coordinates (because nothing has addresses here... and if it does, they cannot be trusted), we were going to wear ugly hard hats, wave around utility flashlights, and explore an amazing volcano butthole.
this was going to be.

after 20 minutes of "no, I do not want to take your 2 dozen bananas but obrigada" and "I'm so full - I don't want another cookie" and finally "OK, one banana, and 4 cookies", we were on the road.
there is only one main road on Pico. and it has no name. it is simply "the main road".
there are only 2 speed limits on Pico. 50 kph and 80 kph. or as my mom calls them "slow down" and "SLOW DOWN!"

after a few u-turns and swear words (on my part) we made it to Gruta das Torres right on time.

my proud march of an entrance matched my announcement "my name is on the list - I booked this previously via the interwebs".
"ah," man looks at *the book*. "Kathleen?"
"yes! that's me!"
"yea so, we have a problem"

my spoiled, California, only-child ass wanted to cry.
"a large rock in the ceiling of the cave fell yesterday" he says. 
"we are awaiting specialists to inspect it before allowing any new visitors" he says.
"it is for my safety" he says.

in my brain, I am throwing things; I am telling him I don't think I can ever afford to return here to do this; I am losing confidence in myself; I want to eat 2 dozen bananas and a box of cookies.
we are allowed to wander along the rim, squint in to the dark decaying abyss without seeing anything, and watch a video showing off all the badass shit I am missing out on.
my mom seems content with the change of plans, which adds to my frustration.

kicking rocks back to my rented transport, I mulled over how to get over this.
the velvet cows were startled by my stomping - they thought about moving... but were too lazy and instead, continued nibbling on grass tucked between volcanic rocks.
the air smells of ocean, which shines at me in sunny patches less than 2 miles away.
somewhere birds squawk with a foreign accent.

...nothing is wrong with this.

I had made this trip to be an agenda of adventures revolving around me, and me.
yet my happiest moment thus far was when Mariana, her daughter, and her son-in-law surprised us at a restaurant. they knew we were staying in Lajes and decided to - unbeknownst to us - drive around looking for us. as I Facebooked at an outdoor table with my mom pretending not to watch over my shoulder, the 3 of them walked up with secret smiles, asking if I was Kathleen.
once I realized I was not getting arrested, I cried.
this is why I am here - I just didn't know it at first.

in other news...
...the house we are staying in has hot water for just 10 seconds at a time, fuzzy mold growing on the walls, framed Jesus sketches everywhere, no electricity half of the nights, and the creakiest floors I have ever heard in a horror movie.
but I got my own bed so, all good.
...my Portuguese family thinks I am hysterical because I keep saying "Oh Jesus" in Portuguese (which is simply, "aah Jhejeush"). I'm not sure what that says about either party but, it says something.
...I miss my boyfriend, and my dog.
and you - I miss you too.

142 solitaire matches later...

unexpected thunderSNORES at midnight.
and 3am.
and then 4am.

my feet stress-rubbed together under heavy blankets for about 4 hours last night as thunder raged outside our thin glassed doors and my mom lamaze-snored beside me. in our rented house there is no alternative bed to resort to; no big couch to sprawl on; no alternative.
4 hours later, I was still alive and decided to sleep walk throughout the day. no big deal.
rain sprinkled down in the morning as we nibbled on scrambled eggs and sipped the tastiest cappuccinos. after stocking my mom up with fruit, we set out on our long walk to Vila Nova de Gaia, which means we wandered around narrow roads until I got so lost a local offered help.
after finally finding Taylor's Port house, port was a terrible refreshment. I was hot and irritated and just wanted to poop and have a frozen yogurt. (what's new)
I took 1 (or 3) for the team though and drank my ports while watching my 3 year old neighbor swirl grape juice in his wine glass.

that night we decided to have a traditional Portuguese dinner consisting of bread, fish, and potatoes. which happens to also be the desired diet of felines.
I think I know why one gets so many potatoes in Portuguese meals - every destination is somehow at the top of a flippin' hill.
we zig-zagged our way back to our house through a cigarette-lit alley; a maze of drying laundry, sweet-smelling desserts, and cats.
235 stairs later I asked my mom if she is okay and her response is a tired laugh.
Porto, done.

in other news...
...mom while holding the cable remote: "Kathy, how do I turn off the TV?"
me: "mom, this is the remote for the cable box. You need the TV remote"
mom: "I know"
...45 minutes to get from one plane to another on Terceira island. think we can do it?
...(yes, we did)


3 hours in Chicago

my mom frantically flips through the plastic safety "menu" of details as the using-your-seat-as-a-flotation-device instructions play on the little tvs.

we are on our first of many legs heading to Portugal, or as my family calls it, the MOTHERLAND.
and while my mother was born on that land, she has not returned since she was 5... and she is not much of a traveler.

so, I took the liberty of planning this 12 day trip for us. which means something will go wrong. maybe my passport will get stolen or my chromebook will explode when I forget to use the voltage converter or my luggage will fall in to the Atlantic or my mom will accidentally PURCHASE drugs in Lisbon and take them.
which is pretty bad.
(or... is it?)

several people have asked me "why Portugal?" in regards to vacation locations.
my grandparents - Manual and Isilda - are from the island Pico, one of 9 islands in the Azores 900 miles off the coast of Portugal. Pico is about 35 miles long and carries a volcano on its back.
mom tells me as kids on the island, her and her sisters used to chase chickens and roll a wheel around with a stick to entertain themselves.
luckily, I will have no time for that.

we have just 4 days on the island and they are jam packed with whale watching, volcano cave touring, caldeira balancing, ferry riding, wine tasting, and not accidentally driving off any cliffs.
(it has been a long time since I drove a manual stick shift)

but until our Pico adventures, we are roaming around Porto Portugal... drinking wine from our garden patio that faces the Dom Luis bridge and listening to seagulls that sound SO MUCH like screaming children (once you get used to it, it is nice).

in other news...
...turbulence. a reminder that you may have just paid hundreds of dollars to die.
...in Philadelphia, in transit to Lisbon, my mom tells me "I'm getting punchy". I step a punch-distance back from her and ask what that means. 
mom: "I haven't had any fruit or taken any walks"
me: "oh so, cranky?"
her: "yes - punchy"
OK then. I have adjusted our agenda to include walking far to purchase fruits.
...as my mom takes a photo of me writing this post she says "OK tell me when"
me: "OK, now"
mom: "OK, hold on"
...after taking said-photo she asks me "you aren't writing anything embarrassing are you?"
me: "nope"
...I had a birthday. and I will not hesitate to announce it was the best yet.


there is no better person to be, than yourself

skinny jeans and tennis shoes.
that is what my 17-year-old Bieber-loving cousins wore for their *hiking tour of the University of California Santa Cruz campus.

I decided to not tell them about me - loudly - ripping my tightly flared jeans while trekking to class back in 2001. there is a valuable lesson to be learned when your ass-cheek hangs out of your pants, and I did not want to take that opportunity away from them.

the campus is a forest... the air is freshly amazing, the views are spectacular, and gumball machines plant trees.
my One Direction-enthusiasts learned that one cannot locate something with the eye and say LET'S GO THERE. rather one must simply begin walking to discover the destination. plants and bridges are your landmarks.

so, we got lost a lot.

and saw a penis.

and saw a library. which - from their reactions - is more rare than seeing a penis.

I was far too excited and envious to find the library had - since my departure - built study 'rooms' in the corners, that were outside. they had 2 walls of strong screens... keeping bugs out but letting tree-breezes in.

we trekked our way back to the car, our adventure perfectly timed with everyone's hanger levels. instruments played along the downtown Santa Cruz strip as I pointed out my favorite shoe shops. the lunch-time burgers at Betty's did NOT disappoint and our pleasantly full tummies drove down to the Marine Aquatic Center along the cliffs by the ocean.

upon realizing we could touch stuff at this Aquatic Center, I excitedly shouted "OH COME TOUCH THE STARFISH!". I received a prompt...

so I used my physical strength and superiority to coerce them in to touching the starfish and hermit crabs and those big eggshell things that sharks push out of their vaginas. *cringe

once the old lady went in to detail about the orgy that the jellyfish were having in front of us, I knew this trip had officially become 'epic'.

in other news...
...I somehow keep discovering and then forgetting that the only person one can rely on, is oneself. I cannot continually HOPE that someone else will treat me how I want them to, nor should I expect that. therefore, I vow to date myself; to do what I want, even if it means I do it alone; to not settle for someone else's ideals when I want something different; to not let someone else, let me down.

"Without giving up hope... we will never relax with where we are or who we are."
- Pema Chodron


how to buy yourself flowers

you stepped in poop while walking your dog before work.
then your dog stepped in poop. (what an asshole)
a coworker ditched you at lunch today and did not apologize.
someone visited your cube to ask you what's wrong, because KATHLEEN, YOU LOOK SO TIRED. ARE YOU OK??
you cannot seem to find any POOPING PRIVACY today in the work bathroom.
and work announced more layoffs.


when I see someone walking with a bouquet, I like to imagine it was purchased not for a special occasion; not for a birthday; not for an anniversary; not for an expectation. rather, for a surprise; for a hard day; for I Thought of You; for I Love You.

and sometimes, you have to be your own lover.

so I stood there in the middle of all these Safeway flowers after work, trying to decide what this non-occasion deserved.
Calla Lilies? no - smells like medicine.
Mixed? no - too "get well soon"ish and lacks direction.
Gerberas? no - I need to be able to pronounce it confidently.
Roses? no - I do not deserve those.

wait wait, what? did I really just think that?? what a jerk!


surprise yourself today and help yourself be happy.

in other news...
...Rome has a rash in his paw. probably from all that POOP he keeps stepping in!!
...my boyfriend seems to think 2 nights spent in Lake Tahoe for a 100 mile bike ride, is a vacation.
...I love a dog who has an appreciation for the arts.



he shouted to me.
in the parking lot of an Aqui's Cal-Mex restaurant.
as his parents dragged him away.

HE, is a 4 year old whose mom and dad just bought me a birthday meal.
not the ideal proposal but it warmed my already-melted heart.

spending time with my friends and the people I love made turning 33 pretty rad. it was an excuse to eat ice cream; achieve my worst bowling score; be driven by someone else; go home at midnight because you know what? I am tired! (oh, and to be proposed to in a parking lot)

besides the sore knees after 50 mile bike rides, getting old is not that bad.

in other news...
...my 7th grade teacher told me, "Happy birthday. You have the best posts and live life to the fullest, so I am sure you will have a great day." and you know what? after reading that, my day was even better.
...Romeo experimented life as an off-leash wolf-pack member last weekend, while I was a nail-biting nervous wreck of a 'mom' expecting him to run off with another woman, or break a leg, or get a dog pregnant (impossible), or pierce his belly button, get a tattoo and move to Mexico.
thank you Romeo for always coming back home to me!