Shit Happens

When I allow the past to dictate the future, it’s as if I’m a fish swimming upstream, battling the current, overwhelmed by my own anxiety.

I have this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, as Julia Gregson describes, like when you’re swimming, and you want to put your feet down on something solid, but the water’s deeper than you think, and there’s nothing there.

In three short days, Larry and I are flying to France to begin our long-awaited pilgrimage along the El Camino de Santiago. We’ll be hiking for two weeks, covering approximately 200 miles, traveling over the Pyrenees from France to Spain on foot. 

The Camino de Santiago has existed for over 1000 years, and it dates back to the 9th Century when the remains of St James the Apostle were first discovered in Northern Spain. It is believed that St James preached the Gospel in present-day Galicia, and on return to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in 44AD. Herod was a rather callous dude, even for his time.

So yes, we’re walking in the footsteps of Apostles, Saints, Crusaders, and modern-day pilgrims. No pressure.

I realize it is the job of my feet to walk, but my feet have a hobby, it’s called being elevated.

I know. What the hell was I thinking?

Let’s blame it on “The Larry Factor!” 

Anyway, finding the right shoes is of utmost importance.

And I completely flubbed that one up by doing the usual, following someone else’s lead, instead of my own gut instinct or doing any viable research. 

A few months ago, Larry and I, in an attempt to escape the stifling heat of Lake County, landed in Fort Bragg for the day. This small coastal town is located along the Pacific Coast of California, about seven miles north of Mendicino.

We head directly to our favorite high-end shoe store for a lookie-loo at this year’s fashionable loafers and sandals. We might have a footwear fetish, but we cover it well.

Larry says, “Hey, they carry Hoka shoes here!” All excited like.

I say, “Honey, look at these adorable sandals.”

He completely ignores the delicate straps hanging from my fingers and says, “These are top-rated hiking shoes, and we should each get a pair for our trip.”

“Who says? “

“It’s common knowledge, but I did a little research, and these come highly recommended.”

“Again, I’d like to know if this is science or the tactics of a great marketing department.”

“It’s science. What size do you wear?”

“I’m a 10.”

He looks at me like I’m kidding, and then wisely, he says, “oh, yes, you’re a total 10.”

Nice comeback. 

So we try on a few Hoka’s and quickly settle on a pair of top-rated hiking shoes for our much-awaited trip.

It’s recommended that you break in your shoes well before the hike so you’re not dealing with sore spots and blisters while you’re trying to cross the Pyrenees. 

Larry set up an ambitious hiking schedule to prepare us for the rigors of life on the trail. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. And that, my friend, is not going to be our fate.

The next morning, we confidently slip into our new Hoka’s, and off we go. 

I’ll be honest, it didn’t go well.

Around mile six, both of us have sore feet. Mine are more hot spots, whereas Larry has developed actual blisters. He looks as if he aged five years, and I’m sure the pained expression plastered across my face is not doing me any favors.

The truth is the shoes are not wide enough for my feet, but I bravely soldier on because I haven’t aged out of my early training. Breaking in new shoes is like people who bind their feet. The binding is painful at first, but eventually, you get used to it, and the pain goes away. 

Kate McGahan wisely says the saddest part of all is that by binding yourself to the choices you make, you forget that there is another way to live

Larry says, “it’s just a matter of breaking them in.”

I whine, “I’m not going to make it if my feet are aching and we’re only a couple of miles into our day.”

“They’ll loosen up, you’ll see.”

“Honey, jeans loosen up, muscles loosen up, I loosen up with wine, but Hoka’s, they’re as stubborn as you.”

“So you loosen up with wine?”

“Let’s stay focused on the shoes.”

The next day we attempt a less ambitious hike, and I end up with the same problem, only this time I was slightly more vocal about my discomfort.

Larry says, “stick these in your shoes and see if it stretches them a little.” He hands me these ancient wooden shoe horses, and I jam them into my slightly sweaty shoes and leave them there for a few days.

I decide to wear my old shoes on the next hike, but they have no arch support, not the best choice for climbing over the Pyrenees. I would say they’re suitable for the shopping mall or taking the kids to the park.

Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I might have to be helicoptered off the damn trail.

Larry’s feet continue to blister, but he is determined to break the shoes because they are not going to break him. Do you detect a pattern with this man?

I, on the other hand, start researching hiking shoes for women with unusually wide feet. I can see you are amused by my minor deformity. It’s not like I have flippers for feet, but with the birth of each child, they grew slightly wider. 

Shit happens when you get knocked up. 

Can I just say Larry’s feet made no noticeable changes with each child, but his hair greyed quite a bit?

If I were to describe my feet, I would say they are very feminine, curvacious even, with long toes. In fact, my second toe is slightly taller than the first, which Larry has mercilessly ridiculed for 38 years, it being my only flaw and all. The skin is soft and milky, with an attractive array of veins that circle the ankle. The nails are currently clipped and polished with an earthy grape color that compliments my skin tone. The instep is as if the sway of a back that tapers beautifully to a well-rounded but calloused heel. I might be impartial when it comes to my feet, we’re attached, both literally and viscerally.

So I discovered that Salomon has a great hiking shoe for women with my particular foot issue. I secretly ordered a pair as backup, like police officers, when dealing with villains.

When they arrive, I shoved them on my feet, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t fit like a well-worn glove.  

I say, “Larry, look at my new shoes. They’re a perfect fit.”

Larry says, “Where in the hell did you find those things? They’re not good hiking shoes. You should send them back and continue breaking in the Hoka? You’ll see. Mine are feeling great.”

“I think the shoes are as wide as they’re going to get, and no amount of hiking will change this fact.”

“Have a little faith in the process.”

I mumble under my breath, “I have great faith in fools.”

Yes, I’m an idiot. I sent them back. 

After three more tries with the narrow Hokas, I reorder the Salomon, and I believe they sent me the exact same pair I returned days earlier. I wear them on a fifteen-mile hike the day they land on my front porch.

They’re magnificent, and like Jesus, I feel as if I could walk on water. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, faith. 

I gave Kelley the “other” shoes, and she says, “wow, these are really wide. I’m swimming in them.”

I wisely choose to ignore the unfortunate observation and poured myself another cup of coffee. 

We also purchased walking sticks and backpacks, which we will be using daily, and we’ve been practicing with all our gear along the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which has garnered some eye-rolling, blatant snickers, and unabashed staring.

People are so judgemental. 

At this point, we are either prepared or not. 

But before all that, I have a special dinner planned for Larry with just the kids and grandkids to honor his retirement, my nephew’s wedding, and Audrey’s birthday before our long-ass flight to France. 

Did I mention the plumbing backed up in our entire house? Of course, it happened after a delightful dinner that Tony and Thilita cooked for the entire family, kids, grandparents, granddaughters, and nieces included.

It’s dark when we discover the issue, the dishes are done, and the seven of us currently residing in my home are preparing for bed.

Larry says, “no one can use the bathrooms until I have a chance to snake out the main drain tomorrow morning.”

I say, “wait, I’ve been clearing these toilets for thirty years. I can do it,” and I proceed to plunge like a mad woman with a house full of guests.

Larry observes, “You’re just forcing the sewage up in all the other bathrooms.”

I scream, “Everybody, grab some towels out of the garage, and soak up the overflow in your bathrooms.”

As you can imagine, there were some complaints.

After plunging for a good thirty minutes, I concede defeat, we all scamper across the street to Julies to use the facilities and return to a rather foul-smelling house to sleep.

What can I say? Shit happens.

In the morning, Larry pulled the toilet off in Dante’s bathroom and snaked about eighty feet out to relieve the clog. 

While he was driving the rented snake back to the Tool Shed, I’m scouring every bathroom and shower on the west side of the house with Clorox. Good times.

Oh, and I have to pack. I’m not sure, but I believe my psoriasis is acting up?

I have been allotted exactly thirty pounds for my luggage, including my walking sticks, hiking shoes, rain poncho, and backpack. Not by Larry but by the company we hired to organize our walk.

I keep reminding myself to keep swimming, kick those feet, you’ll get there.

Our journey will end at Santiago de Compostela on the west coast of Spain, where I will dip my manicured toe in the Mediterranean Sea, opps, Atlantic Ocean (my geography sucks). Assuming I still have all my toes. 

Our feet tell our stories. They walk us through this life, moving us from one place to the next. And although our gait is revelatory, our feet carry the weight of our journeys.

I’m wondering how it will feel to be at the end of this excursion looking back. When I wrote that, it made me think about looking back on one’s life, which is oddly different from looking forward to one’s life from the past. Now that I am aged, with wide feet, and all, where I’m standing might be more important than the view.  

You know what I mean? 

It’s like when you climb a mountain, the view is spectacular, and you feel highly accomplished, but do you want to reclimb it? 

Hell no!

I’m Living in the Gap, living the dream, swimming upstream.

I’ll be climbing the mountains for the next few weeks, the internet will be sketchy, and I might go silent for a stretch of time. Miss you already. Hugs, C

33 Comments

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    1. That’s so interesting that Hokas were recommended after foot surgery! They have great arch support but my flippers needed a wee more space. Don’t be impressed yet, all I’ve done is pack. I have to admit I’m unsure about my ability to hike such long distances for fourteen days in a row. We’ll just have to see how it goes. More to come…Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a size 10 also, but on the narrow side. My daughter is an 11 or 11 1/2! She does have flippers. On her swim team in college, they had to order her special shoes. They were an Under Armour team and they didn’t make women’s shoes that large. Good luck! I can’t wait to hear about your trip.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow! That’s quite a bit of walking you’ll be doing! Hope all goes according to plan, but if it doesn’t, just enjoy and know when to give up! 😉 I had to laugh at the description of your feet. Wide. Long second toe. Yep, me too! So now I have to go look up the shoes you mention – maybe they’ll work for me too – though I plan to use them on much shorter treks closer to home. Btw, I love Barbra and hadn’t heard this duet before. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susanne, such good advice, know when to give up and just enjoy what you can accomplish. I might have to print your comment out and keep it with me! Now I’ll let you in on a little secret, people with longer second toes are highly intelligent and unusually talented. This is science by the way but it makes people with big first piggies jealous and they’ve suppressed the research. So I wouldn’t advertise unless you know what type of foot you’re dealing with! Do check out the Solomons, they’re fabulous. And of course you love Barbara, it’s a toe thing! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My mom told me the same ‘scientific fact’ but I thought she might be biased since all the ladies in our family have the same ‘feature!’ 😉 🙂 It does make shopping for shoes challenging though, doesn’t it? I’ll check out the Solomons. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story Cheryl. A good guess is This “Way of St
    James” adventure is going to supply tons of material that your followers will be reading at least into the new year! Bon Voyage dear neighbors!

    CT

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Chris, and yes, I do believe our little adventure will provide a plethora of material and hopefully some fabulous memories! Thanks for the kind send off and you might send up a few prayers! Hugs, C

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    1. Hi Crystal, thank you, we’re looking forward to the adventure, and we’ll just have to see how far these “magnificent” feet can take me! Truthfully, I’m a little (extremely) worried, but putting on a brave face, and I do have incredible shoes! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing adventure, Cheryl. ❤ I admire your bravery and Larry's and what memories you will make. Good on you for sticking to your comfort and sorting your boots out. Wishing you both a wonderful time. ❤ xXx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jane, we are full of bravado at the onset, we’ll just have to see how it all goes down. At the very least we’ll be seeing some beautiful sites and walking in the footsteps of saints with my comfortable Solomons! Glory be! Thanks so much for the good wishes! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness, my sister from another mother…I was told Hokas are the best! They will cure your plantar fasciitis! It’s worth every penny! So I went to the Running Revolution in Campbell, and tried on every pair of Hokas they have….and they have a LOT! None of them were comfortable for me. None of them fit me right. I thought I must be doing something wrong. Hokas are THE BEST!!! What’s wrong with me? Well, fortunately, the guys that work there are not judgmental and did not insist that there must be something wrong with me and, instead, brought out some other brands for me to try. I ended up with a pair of Asics which fit like a glove and were so comfortable. I walked miles and miles in them on my recent European trip and am SO happy I didn’t force my feet into “THE BEST” shoes that hurt my feet. So you enjoy those Salomons and if they really work for you on your 200 mile walk, order another pair before they are discontinued, so you’ll have a back up pair when these wear out…and you won’t have to go through this whole process again…at least for awhile. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello my sister from another mother! I’m so sorry about your plantar fasciitis, that is supposed to be unbelievably painful and exhausting. And it is true, the Hokas have great arch support, but they certainly did not make my little feet happy! They must have an incredible marketing department because just about everyone I talk to knows about these shoes. The thing is you either love them or hate them and I believe they are made for a very specific type of foot. And can I just add, there is nothing wrong with you or your feet! It’s definitely the shoes. I’ve had a pair of Asics before, very comfortable, and accommodating if I remember correctly. I go through shoes like nobodies business because I hike a lot and like you, when we travel we like to explore on foot. I think I just might take up your advice and order another pair of the Salomons because I assume after 200 miles I might need a new pair! Hugs, C

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  5. I’m sure it will be an exciting trip, and give you a full year of blog posts when you return. Take care, dear Cheryl. I don’t want to see photos of you being helicoptered off of a mountain.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so excited to see France and Spain up close and no doubt this experience will warrant a few good posts when we return. I just hope I have the stamina to complete the journey without the use of a helicopter! Thanks for the good wishes Pete. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Fraggle, you always make me smile! And now that I think about it, a helicopter would be a great way to see that damn mountain! And all those holier than thou people would absolutely do the same! I like the way you think. Hugs,C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That is such an astute observation Scott, I would have put it in the blog if I thought of it! Marriage is certainly a journey and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the path can get rather rocky at times! Good shoes, good man, good times! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cheryl, I am so excited about your grand hiking adventure. I will live vicariously through you because Robby would never be able to convince me that my knee and bladder could make that trip! Your feet are beautiful and I know the importance of shoes while hiking. So glad you found shoes that fit you well. It does make all the difference. This quote “Kate McGahan wisely says the saddest part of all is that by binding yourself to the choices you make, you forget that there is another way to live.” Boy did this speak to my soul. I’m not generally an “out of the box” thinker so I can get stuck in this mindset! Going to give some thought to the things or patterns that I am “bound” to. Praying your trip is fabulous and I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures. Best Wishes and Happy Travels to you and Larry! Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leigh, thanks for the kind words concerning my voluptuous feet! I suppose it’s true, a journey of 200 miles begins with a single step, and shoes that fit! We’ll just have to see how it goes? I’m going to stay open to the helicopter if need be. I was also really struck by Kate McGahan’s words on being so bound to our choices that we become blind to the possibilities! I’m also a single track thinker and it always surprises me when someone presents a different perspective, one that’s more generous, or conducive to the situation. Maybe that’s the secret, just being open to trying something new, and if it’s not a good fit, having the sense to say so! Thanks for the good wishes, hugs my friend, C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What? 200 Miles, are you crazy? Once again I laughed so hard reading your post, during the Ohio State game, I actually read sections to my hubby while they were playing. Am I brave or what? Be safe, take lots of picture and have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diane! Really? You’re reading my blog while Ohio State is playing? Now that’s high praise. And might I add, your hubby is a rather patient man! Brave you are. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, pray our flights don’t get canceled, and the weather is managable! Hugs, C

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  8. Oh wow, Cheryl! I hope you have the best time in your perfect hiking shoes. I’ve seen pics from Campostela–my brother is currently living in Vigo. You’re going to have an amazing time. Take a million pics. Can’t wait to live vicariously. And that hike should be fantastic essay fodder, just sayin’!

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  9. Cheryl your post had me in stitches. Just what you needed – shit happening while in the midst of your boot dilemma. Lol, I hope by this time you are there in Europe en trek, drinking wine and living fine. ❤

    Like

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