East Canyon and Echo, Utah

This weekend I de-stressed by taking my BFF Chelsey to my favorite "thinking" drive: East Canyon, a winding path through the Wasatch mountains, and then to Echo, an old boom town from the days of the Transcontinental Railroad.  We did keep going west and ended up making a beer run in Evanston, Wyoming, but that's not featured here.  I just wanted to show some of the pretty pictures from the day.  This drive means a lot to me, and I even wrote about it the first time I drove through years ago.

I had seen this old dilapidated structure I assumed to be a barn every time I drove past, but never stopped; this visit I made the executive decision to get out and take a look.  I wandered up to it feeling very 'at home', since buildings like this are plentiful where I come from, and when I got close enough I realized, this wasn't a barn or a shed.  I saw the stove inside, I saw the chimney crumbling through the cracks.  It had been a house.

This made me really sad and I am not even sure why.  I guess I saw my own house in it somewhere (the house where I grew up, that is.)  I just got the overpowering feeling of home and I saw all of the neglect and age and wear, and I suppose a large part of me relates.  It sounds silly, but that's the emotion I got.

Anyway, then it was back to Echo, the creepy, sleepy little town with a cemetery full of children and a lot of old, unused buildings.  Echo is one of those places that makes you happy to return to the city and civilization.


Stories From Home, Vol. 1

Something great happened today.  I was visiting Wheeler Farm here in Salt Lake City (an old farmstead/park complete with farm animals and a river through the middle) with some friends, and somehow the conversation turned to a short storytelling session where I shared a few of the more absurd memories from my youth, while the kids ran around and played in the creek.

 (I seriously love these guys!!)

I've always loved Wheeler Farm because it does remind me of home.  Working on the garden, being surrounded by forest, the isolation, the horses, the chickens...it's my little piece of Tennessee in Utah.  What's more, my friends know my past, so when I was explaining things like my Dad warning me to "not go fallin' around in a well somewhere" they weren't shocked, but they were laughing hysterically.  I ended one story with "Man, I should write a book," and they agreed.

The thing is, I've been told that many times when it comes to my adverse childhood experience, but never anything positive.  It struck me there sitting in the shade...maybe I should write about the good moments.  They're still very strange and fantastical stories, but for their strangeness, they're still heartwarming, or at least humorous.  With what I'm going through right now, I will take heartwarming and humorous.  So, I'll start today with re-telling two of the tales I told earlier this sunny afternoon.

The Bear Trap

I was not encouraged to ever be in my house as a child.  Ever.  And barring the fact that there were a few toys and snacks within it, I wasn't really happy to be in it much, so most of my "free time" was spent exploring the mountains.  I ran into some strange things out there, and I don't think my parents have any clue just how far I traveled...it was miles and miles each day.  Anyway, this afternoon I was doing my thing and surf-sliding down a very steep mountain.

My dad was always adamant that I watch what the hell I was doing, mostly for the unmarked underground wells that existed all over the Appalachians where we lived.  I had enough fear for them considering the neighbor boy, slightly younger than me, fell in one and drowned when I was four years old.  So as I slid down the slippery pine-needles and leaves, I watched the slope with an eagle eye, scouring the horizon for deadly wells.... when I saw an old bear trap directly in my path.

I recognized it as my dad's; it wasn't the "full size" bear traps, but slightly smaller.  I have no idea what he was trying to catch, but the point here is that the trap was open and I was careening toward it.  I immediately stood from my crouched slide, and when my feet hit the open trap it stayed opened.  It was rusted open.  Lucky me? But then I looked up, still sliding forward, and met eyes with a rotted rope, and hanging from the end of it, a gnarled chicken foot and leg.

My dad had used one of his roosters for bait, hanging above the trap, and over the months (year?) the carcass rotted, leaving the one leg and a bunch of matted feathers and meat to drip slowly down onto the trap.  My brain realized all this in the span of about .5 seconds before I screeched and the thing thwacked me right in the face, dead chicken just exploding everywhere and going in every single opening in my skull.  It was the most disgusting thing I've ever encountered with my face, and it encountered aaaaallllllll of my face.  The meat was soggy and just kind of made a plegh sound as it smacked me, like even it was disgusted at what just happened.  Later when I told my Mom about the incident she laughed so hard she doubled over and I just stood there unimpressed, but I have to admit, if I had been in her shoes I would have probably done the same thing.

tl;dr, I got hit in the face with a dead chicken, while trying to avoid a rusted trap.

 Midnight Surprise

I woke up one night, about six or seven years old, to my dad very excitedly telling me to get out of bed (the couch) and come outside.  My dad is never excited about anything, so I remember tripping over my nightgown and stumbling out into the moonlit night.  He was dressed in camouflage and his truck was parked in the front of the house, and several of his louder, more rowdy friends were with him.

My dad's friends were a strange bunch, all convicts or hunters/hillbillies, with hearts of gold toward me, whom they considered to be the prodigy of the forest.  They all smiled and called to me, standing at the tailgate of the truck, and I remembered thinking from everyone's giddy level of enchantment that they must have gotten me a present!  My child logic was not wise, considering I 1) never got presents and 2) a bunch of grown men waking up a six year old at midnight and calling her outside was a sinister beginning to a present.

So my dad told me to go and look in the back of the truck.  I traipsed up the hill, excited, as he went ahead of me and around the back.  He looked to be holding something in the bed, but I had no clue what it might be.  The men parted around me as I rounded the edge of the corner and A FUCKING BEAR LUNGED AT ME, ROARING.

I screamed and about three seconds later heard the uproarious laughter of the hunters; my dad had killed a black bear that night while I slept, and brought it home on the truck bed.  This thing's face was inches away from mine, his mouth open, blood dripping out.  I remember seeing the gleaming white fangs in the light of the moon, and the black fur. My dad had made the roaring sound and thrown the body towards me as a joke.  Ha, ha. Hilarious.

After my lip stopped quivering, I asked if I could pet the bear, and my dad let me.  I have to marvel at kid Alex, what a resilient little thing.  I was always sad to see a dead animal like that, but these animals were our survival.  That bear meant good meat for months ahead.  I knew that from a very young age, so I petted it and told it thank you, and then went back to bed.  Normal night for the Worleys.

tl;dr; my dad uses an actual bear to scare the shit out of me in the middle of the night


World Suicide Prevention Day

I wanted to write something meaningful considering the date, but I feel exhausted writing about this topic in general.  I am a pretty doleful person as it goes and I know people get tired of that, but the subject does need talking about--the stigma, the misconceptions, the neglect, the survivor guilt--these are all things that we need dialogues on, and what better time than today? So let's get real for a minute.

How to Help

I know it's been said many times in many ways, but the most important thing to do when a person in your life is feeling suicidal is to take them seriously.  Don't let it go.  Don't ignore them. Listen.  It sounds simple, but it cannot be overstated.  When I talked to my friends about feeling suicidal they had no idea what the "right thing to say" was...I could tell they were worried.  In my experience it's not what you say, it's the being there that will make the difference.  Just keeping a dialogue open, asking questions.  You're not going to convince someone else to live or find their reason for living in a conversation or ten thousand conversations.  What you can do is be there to talk to them.

And they might not want to talk.  Again, there's no perfect way to handle this.  There is no guaranteed protocol.  Your best bet is simply awareness and persistence, and though that sounds a bit like going to a fight without any weapons, it can save a life.  It did save mine, twice.

Understanding Suicide

Don't worry about making the person feel better, or "curing" whatever they have.  There are mental scars we can get as humans that cause just as much suffering as any biological disease.  Suicide, as unglamorous as it is, is more of a will to be rid of that pain than anything dramatic.  I know for me at least, I felt that pain and I felt like I was a burden to people who cared because of it and how it affected my life.  So the idea of ending the struggle was very appealing.  I say this so that you can keep it all in mind when talking to someone about their mental state and suicidal thoughts.  This isn't something that a yoga class or a church session or a good book or the correct inspirational quote will fix.  So don't focus on that aspect of it.  Just acknowledge their pain the way you would any other loved one suffering any other kind of pain.

For Survivors

There are a lot of support networks out there for those who have suffered a loss from suicide; I can't speak too much about how to heal from that, but I might be able to offer insight as someone who has been there contemplating it.  It is definitely not anyone's fault--again, these are mental scars and it's a pain so severe it consumes you.  I figure many of those who choose suicide feel as I did, that they were a burden or that their loved ones either wouldn't care or would move on quickly.  It's something I believed wholly, and I can't say why.  So in trying to figure out your pain, I hope that at least makes some sense.  And if you haven't yet, please find a support group or therapist to help deal with your loss.

I have to interject here and thank the amazing people in my life for what they've done over the past few months.  I would not be alive without their support and the reason I continue to stumble around every day trying to find some kind of footing in life is because of them.   Things are not perfect with my mental health--far from it, but suicide has been removed from my mind as an option because of those loving hearts who want to keep me around. You can be that for someone.

The following photos were all taken after my experiences, which were so, so recent.  To think of never having these moments seems strange now.  I consider them trophies, successes.


Before and After (Random Health Update)

I have a lot of stuff to talk about, from sharing old vacation photos to my outing this morning, and the second half of my 28 Lessons for 28 Years, but I felt a little compelled to write about health and weight loss today since it's something that I've been fixated on.  Once you make the lifestyle change, your health tends to take focus, at least that's how it's worked for me, but I never write about it, and especially not lately due to all the mental problems.

Those mental health issues have swallowed my life since about March/April, and all of my progress really slowed to a crawl.  I was still losing weight, but the stringent methods of counting calories and avoiding carbs were all but forgotten; I was barely able to survive, let alone think about macros and muh protein.  It's a sad thing, because even though you're not failing, you're not "on track", and when your brain is basically already saying "haha, you blow", it's just another hit that you take.  You feel like you're failing.

But, I was at the store a few days ago and one of the cashiers who has known me for years said, "You look like you've lost weight.  You can see it in your face."  Oh, BS, because as anyone who has lost weight knows, you NEVER look like you've lost weight, haha.  Then, later that night, I was reminiscing while scrolling through old Instagram pics and happened to find one from around my heaviest weight, when I became a garbage disposal for my own feelings about my mother's death.  That was 48 pounds ago, give or take. The recent photo is from some time in August.

I don't really have any secrets to success.  I think that weight loss is different for everyone, and I think we all have to find our own path to health and what it means for us.  With that said, I don't want to appear totally useless, so, here's the things that help me:

-In general I avoid carbs.
-I do not avoid fats, protein, or vegetables.
-Eggs.  Always eggs. #egglife
-I count my calories.  I use the My Fitness Pal app.
-I post and read on /r/loseit and /r/fitness; it's my support group.
-I had to admit that I was addicted to sugar before any of this worked.
-Weight loss is not about exercise.  That's literally like 5% of it.  It's all about food.
-calories in, calories out WORKS. It's science. You can't trick science.

Sorry those are all probably not very helpful as well as super generic!  There are no secrets, only hard work and your own path.  With THAT said, if anyone has any questions please let me know and I will try my best to answer them.  I am passionate about health and always willing to discuss it, even if it's to rant about how unfair it is that peanut butter has like a trillion calories per spoonful.


Not for ourselves alone are we born.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 
 ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here I am talking about Mad Max yet again, well, I can't help it.  The movie is so action-packed and beautifully written that you can watch it four or five times and still see things you haven't seen before.  It just keeps giving back.  And while I do love re-watching for those explosions and that one car getting swept up in the dust tornado, I'm not going to write about that.  I found another touching bit of symbolism related to Max's condition in my most recent watch.

First, a bit of backstory on Mad Max lore: Max is rarely called by name and has a "title" in each movie, or sometimes two or three titles.  In Fury Road, he's abducted and used for human blood transfusions, earning him the glamorous title of "blood bag".  Later when he uncomfortably runs into Furiosa, she leaves unsatisfied when Max refuses to speak to her.

 After that awkward attempt at human contact, she takes to calling him "Fool."  And then they bond over time, and explosions happen and motorcycles flank tanker trucks and old ladies shoot at oxygen tanks and Furiosa ends up fatally wounded, with a tension pneumothorax, (a collapsed lung) and exsanguination (her wound is causing her to bleed out.)  She's laying in the back of the vehicle looking pretty grey and disgusting, when Max realizes what's happening and out of nowhere begins some pretty grisly and effective EMS interventions.  (I didn't know they taught cops that...I digress...)

The first few times I watched it I just nodded pretty satisfactorily, because there's nothing better than a well-done lifesaving scene.  Hollywood gets it wrong most of the time, so I can't be the only person with a medical background who gets excited at stuff like this, right guys?  Whatever, the point is, when I watched it recently, I noticed how Max, the PTSD-crippled "fool" who barely speaks the entire movie and jumps at shadows, was busy saving a life while the others stood by, terrified, watching and taking orders when he mutters them.

And it proudly reminded me of how my experience with trauma and emergencies sparred me to get my EMT certification; that unwanted gift of jumping in to help, of knowing how to channel adrenaline and somehow having the ability to move when the whole world freezes--that is a mentality that is invaluable in prehospital care, and it's an ability that my PTSD has honed far beyond the level of reasonable.  Eye contact? Nope.  Stabilizing a protruding femur? Sure.  Thanks, PTSD.

Anyway, what I hadn't noticed is how vocal he was at this point.  Max mostly grunts through the movie, but while he was working on his patient he was speaking almost normally.  He was reassuring, calm, polite.  I notice a change in myself when talking to patients; that is, my voice goes to a more nurturing and concerned tone.  I make more eye contact and I'm warmer.  I don't have as much contrast as Max, but the difference in communication is there, and I've heard and seen it in my coworkers as well.  It is comforting to know that while I am sure I come off completely crazy and bitchy all those times I awkwardly sidle out of a room or refuse to look in someone's eyes, I at least have a pretty good bedside manner.  Whatever instinct it is in us as humans that causes us to take care of others seems to know how to switch on 'nurture' mode when it's needed.  It's lovely, really.  

Back to the scene; he finished his butcher-y, post-apocalyptic unsanitary interventions, and Furiosa became unconscious.  Max's response to that was one that I thought was just simple and poignant at first, but I finally realized the full weight behind the words.  When she passed out, he leaned over her and said, "Max.  My name is Max."

I know, I know, he was FINALLY answering her question from forever ago when they first met, but that's not it.  Max had remembered himself while taking care of Furiosa.  The message is pretty clear; through service to others, we connect with ourselves.  We are actually caring for ourselves.  I don't know how that works, but I do know that it's true.  Not just in medical circumstances, but when I am helping a friend with a problem or even just doing volunteer work, I feel so much more grounded than when trying to flounder around in my own head and world of problems.

Max started the movie as a jumpy runaway who had uncontrollable trauma, and that's exactly how he ended the movie, only with the benefit of having a small break in between--a break where he almost died about 8 million times, made a few interesting acquaintances, recovered his jacket, but most importantly, he was able to find himself for a moment in there.  It happened because he cared for, and took care of, another person.

Right now I rely on those moments of finding myself to get me through.  To be honest I haven't had one in awhile and it's been extremely tough.  But I saw it in the movie and that was enough to remind me that it can happen. Which is more hope than I've had in months, to tell the truth.