Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Somber Reflection

On Monday, September 30, 2013, a family in our community went for a spectacular autumn Colorado day hike along one of the most popular "easy" trails in the area.  Unfortunately, the beautiful day turned into a tragedy when a rock slide killed five family members. Our very small rural mountain community of Buena Vista, has been devastated.  I can't even begin to describe the deep sadness I feel for the family and 13 year old, Grace, who survived because her father shielded her body from the rock slide.  I am at a loss for words. The tragedy will forever change our community and each individual on some level.  Want to read more details?  Click here to read a Denver Post story on the tragedy.

The Johnson Family
(Kiowa, Gracie, Dawna, Dakota and Dywane.  Not pictured:  Two cousins)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Super Human Power

If you have restless genes, you may carry a super human power. This power is the ability to hyperfocus. Wikipedia describes the term hyperfocus an an intense mental state where one can focus on a subject, topic or task. Hyperfocusing also includes the ability to tune out the "unimportant" distractions and allows one to concentrate for hours at a time.

My favorite People's toy
Hyperfocusing has always been a part of my life, from playing with Little People toys as a toddler, running in high school, writing college reports and hiking 14,000 foot peaks.  I have a knack for tuning out noises, conversations and unnecessary distractions in order to complete a project that is interesting to me at the time.  While "zoned in", I am highly motivated to complete the goal.

A great example of my ability to hyperfocus can be seen in my college grades.  The classes resulted in either very high grades or very low grades. I even had to re-take a few classes that were completely boring to me. Classes of high interest, like paleontology and historical geology, resulted in easy solid A's.  While attending paleontology class, the professor assigned a special project which required students to pick and mount microfossils called conodonts.  One day, while looking under the microscope and scouring through fine particles of dirt for conodonts, I zoned in and tuned out.  My zone lasted from about 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  I even forgot to eat dinner!

This amazing super human power originated with our ancestors long ago.  They hunted in order to survive. They needed the power of hyperfocusing to find, track, zone in and kill their hunt, while being aware of their environment and surroundings. The act of hunting could take several hours to several days. This high level of concentration still remains in some of us today.  Since only a portion of humans live with this ability, it isn't easily understood by the majority of people.  This misunderstanding can lead to communication and relationship problems.   Some people may view the ability to hyperfocus as forgetfulness, rudeness, ignorance, isolation and being self centered.  On the flip side, hyperfocusing presents a precious gift and super human power.  This allows people to:

1) Complete a project in record time
2) Work well under extreme pressure with distractions
3) Concentrate on details, while working through complex multitiered projects
3) Maintain high levels of dopamine to remain "happy", then feeling a "high" upon completing a task
4) Stir inner creativity
5) Excel in sports by being able to zone in and practice, practice, practice

If you've ever found yourself tuned and zoned in, you may possess this unique super  human power.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gypsy Summers

Me along the CT during the summer of 2001
As I continue to do research on the DRD4-7R gene, I can't help but think about my own adventurous experiences and how they relate to the  characteristics of the gene.  I'm often drawn back to two particular summers filled with adventure, freedom, ability to change plans and go with the flow as needed.  I call these time periods "Gypsy Summers".  During the summers of 1999 and 2001, I wandered, drifted between jobs, moved between states, lived out of my car, lived in a tent, traveled internationally and hiked a good portion of the Colorado Trail (CT) solo.  The name "Gypsy Summer" stems from my father. The three year period between 1999 and 2001 my father often called me his "Gypsy Daughter".  He was so right!

During the summer of 1999, I backpacked through Europe visiting England, Ireland, France, Italy, Sicily, Greece, Turkey and Switzerland.   I started the trip with a good college friend of mine, we decided to explore on our own during the last month of our trip.  While on my own, I met fabulous and influential people, learned the way of local cultures, adapted and learned a lot about myself.  These experiences will be forever be embedded in my brain.  This summer was like a natural high that didn't end for months.

My second Gypsy Summer was during the summer of 2001.  After teaching science at a Colorado Springs Middle School, I threw my simple belongings into a storage and hit the Colorado Trail (CT).  The CT starts just west of Denver, runs 235 miles through the mountains and high country of Colorado, then ends in Durango. The plan was to hike the last 1/3 portion of the CT with a friend from Kansas City, but after the first leg he had pull out in Creede due to severe blisters on his feet.  So, I finished the hike to Durango by myself.  It was an easy decision and I wasn't afraid one bit.  One day while hiking my longest mileage from the Rio Grand River to Silverton, I entered a rain and lightening storm above treeline.  The electricity of the lightening surrounded me so close that I could see the hair stand up on my arms.  My only thought was "if I die, I will die happy doing something I love".  After my trek, I enjoyed bluegrass festivals, camping with my 80 year old grandmother, visiting hot springs, picking mushrooms and driving back and forth between Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the midwest.  What a fabulous summer to remember!

During these summers, I learned more about myself than all my six years combined in college.  Since, I believe everyone should experience a Gypsy Summer, I came up with the TOP 10 REASONS TO EXPERIENCE A GYPSY SUMMER.  Hopefully, this will give you inspiration to plan your own Gypsy Summer.

Friday, July 5, 2013

ADHD and The Adventure Gene

Before the world was introduced to the ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) craze in the 1980's, historians and scientists have been recording ADHD like symptoms in children and adults since the 1770's.  Before the 1980's, these characteristics were thought to be a result from poor parenting skills, brain damage/brain injuries, brain disorders and brain dysfunctions.  It was never really linked to DNA until the 1980's.  It was also during this time when the ADHD "disorder" was divided into two different categories - those lacking focus WITH hyperactivity (ADHD) and those lacking focus WITHOUT being hyperactive (ADD).  Yet, not matter the diagnosis, ADD and ADHD gained a negative stigma and kids were labeled as the "bad kids" and poor classroom students.

ADD/ADHD are linked to a specific gene carried by all humans called the DRD4 gene.  The DRD4 gene has varying degrees of sequences, but the two most common DRD4 sequences linked to ADD and ADHD are the 2R(repeat) and 7R(repeat).  Roughly 20% of humans on earth carry the DRD4-7R gene/adventure gene. There is no concrete statistic on exactly how many humans have ADD/ADHD, but estimates are as high as 30% and as low as 2%.  When it comes down to it, not all people who carry the DRD4-2R or DRD4-7R sequenced genes have ADD or ADHD. Furthermore, the DRD-7R gene is associated more with ADHD because people with the 7R sequence typically engage in more risk taking activities or hyper-activities.

As a mother, former teacher, youth development worker and being diagnosed as "borderline ADD/ADHD" myself, I wish the whole ADD/ADHD label will go away.  It still carries a negative tone and an instant bias is formed when you hear a youth or adult having ADD/ADHD.  Why can't we change the way people look at the diagnosis?  Why can't we adopt the labels "the adventure gene" or "explorer gene"? Think of how awesome it would be to say, "I carry the explorer gene" like Thomas Edison, Michael Phelps, Will Smith, Henry Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt and Ernest Shackleton. To prove my point, read the example below:

Imagine being 11 years old and an adult tells you, "you have a condition called ADHD and now you will need to take medicine every day so you can focus better".  As you start to think about how awful it will be taking medicine FOREVER, the adult reads a list of negative characteristics that they feel describe you.  The list includes:
1) You can't sit still in class like the "good" students
2) You day dream too much
3) You ignore others when they call your name
4) You can't focus on even one thing
5) You annoying  people
6) You have addictive tendencies, which means you might addicted to drugs when you're older.

As a result, your self esteem takes a dive and your mind transfers into your instinctive survival mode - will you fight or flight the situation?

Now image this scenario instead - an adult tells you that you have this amazing gene only held by 20% of the world's population.  It is called the Adventure Gene!  There are many famous and successful people who live or have lived with the gene, such as actors, athletes, explorers, politicians, entrepreneurs and inventors.  Then the adult reads a list of characteristics that proves you can be even more successful than someone else without the gene.  They tell you:
1) You are always on the look out and analyzing situations (critical problem solving skills)  
2) You can adapt to almost any situation or environment
3) You are creative
4) You aren't afraid of failure
5) You focus REALLY WELL and even better than 80% of the population when something interests you
6) You can live a much longer and healthier life than other people

As a result, you feel like super hero, your self esteem rises and you enter adulthood knowing you will find a successful career that will make you happy.  Isn't this a great way to live a strength based life?

(1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.....)
As a primary student, I had difficulties focusing in class.  I recall counting every corner on the ceiling tiles hundreds of times a week and looking out the classroom windows day dreaming about what I would rather be doing outside.  While a college student at Northwest Missouri State University, my friend and co-geoscience major mentioned he had ADHD. He told me about his symptoms and most of them sounded far too familiar.  I decided to get tested for ADHD at the local college counseling office.  My results came back "borderline".  There were many parts of the test that scored me as a typical ADHD client, but a few results came back scoring me with super powers.  For example, one portion of the test involved putting together some sort of puzzle on a computer screen, and I scored the highest score they had ever seen.  I'd like to contribute that score to my super human power of "hyper-focusing".  Today, it is well known that hyper-focusing is a common characteristic of ADD/ADHD - far from the misconception that ADD/ADHD folks can never concentrate. Hyper-focusing usually takes place when something of high interest is the focus and the individual is able to focus without other distractions getting in the way and/or may completely focus on only that particular task for hours at a time. This is a great skill to have while focusing on things such as hiking a mountain, studying for a college test and working in close proximity to other people in an office who are quite chatty.

CALL TO ACTION!!-------------------------------------------------------

If you are a parent, a parent in the making or a far in the future parent, I call you to action! Don't label your kiddo with the ADD/ADHD stigma.  Instead describe their gene as truth be told.  Your child/ren will be future explorers, entrepreneurs, world travelers, actors/actresses, emergency personnel and anything else that will give them the challenge and constant change they need.  Tell your child/ren all the positives of their genetics (listed above) and they will grow up excited to know they are the elite few with an awesome gene passed down through generations.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DRD4-7R Gene & Emergency Situations

Me and my injured right leg.  (Photo is reversed/instagram)
While I was nearly finishing a morning trail run yesterday along the Barbara Whipple Trail in Buena Vista (Colorado), my right foot landed on the ground with a loud snap.  Luckily I didn't fall, but instantly knew something was wrong.  The first time I looked at my foot it was fine, but seconds later a bulge the size of a small tomato had formed on the outer portion of my ankle.  With many years of First Aid and Wilderness First Aid Trainings, I knew my foot needed to be elevated ASAP and I needed to remain calm.  I laid down on the trail and elevated my foot on a nearby boulder and started calling for help.  Luckily, my location was near the end of the trail and a few folks were nearby.  A lady, with a dog named Oscar and who also happened to be a nurse, came to my rescue.  A man in a red shirt was able to run to my car and grab my cell to call my husband.  After these very helpful people were by my side, I thought I might be able to hike out with the help of them holding onto me.  Then the thought of stumbling and landing on my right foot again freaked me out.  I couldn't bare the thought of making the injury worse and having ankle complications for the rest of my life.  So, I asked a third person, who arrived on the scene shortly after, to call 911.   The search and rescue team arrived in good time, took my vitals, compressed my ankle, inserted a needle into my arm for pain medication and placed me in a soft backboard/basket looking thing.  After they lifted me up, the rescue team
Rescue baskets are AWESOME!!!
fastened a mountain bike wheel contraption to the bottom of the basket and wheeled me to the ambulance.

At the time we all thought my ankle bone was broken.  My foot was turned to the inside and the tomato protruding from the outside of my ankle was was turning different colors.  Yet, the X-ray reveled my ligaments had torn and my bones remained unbroken.  I'm happy to learn my bones aren't broken, but also understand torn ligaments can actually be more serious of an injury.  Sounds like a fun road to recovery if you ask me.

I'm having a hard time accepting that I won't be meeting most of my goals posted in my previous entry dated June 15, 2013.  Summers revive me, keep my sanity and are a huge part of meeting my need to feed restless genes.  Yet, I completely understand my ankle needs to fully heal in order to hike 14ers and run long distance again next summer.  Even though it saddens me, I will hold to this plan.

After reflecting on the situation, I realize my survival instincts kicked in and I was able to analyze the situation clearly and do what was best for me.  My experience and thought process is a great example of the DRD4-7R gene and it's characteristics.   Here are a few examples of why I think my experience can be linked to the DRD4-7R gene's characteristics -

Able to react in need for survival/response ready
I knew to keep myself calm and apply first aid knowledge to the situation - elevated my foot, called for help, kept myself calm and BREATHED.

Able to take on complex problems and follow through with plans without letting emotions get in the way
I knew my limitations of the situation and kept to them.  I formed a plan in my head of what would be best for me, while thinking about all options and best choices for long term.  I understand I HAVE to hold back my current goals in order to heal properly.

You are less startled than others
The third person who arrived on the scene kept looking at my ankle and appeared quite disturbed of the condition.  This was apparent through her facial expressions. She also made the comment of "I hope it's better than it looks".  Her comment didn't faze me, but I took note of her reaction.  It was also interesting to see a couple of by-standard drop their jaw while being placed into the ambulance.  This is kind of funny to me because they hadn't seen my ankle, which by this time was in a compression boot.

I realize my injury really isn't that bad compared to others.  I would love to hear your story and/or your recovery from a torn ligament.  Please feel free to share in the comment section or contact me.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summer Bucket List

While driving from one office to another this morning, my co-worker asked me, "What is your summer bucket list?"  Although I already had some goals for the summer, I really never thought about calling it my "summer bucket list".  To me, a bucket list is the list of things you want to do before you die - pretty depressing.   I believe in exploring and experiencing new things in a more organic fashion.

After thinking about the summer bucket list throughout the entire day, I've realized  it's grown on me.  The main reason is because summer in the Colorado High Country is short lived and pass away quickly.  Summer weather starts in mid June and ends mid August, depending on the year.  Because of the short summers, the season always makes me restless because I hate the thought of having to work inside.  I just can't express  how much it bothers me.  Most of my previous jobs have allowed me to have either have the summers off or were centered around working and living outside.  So, you can imagine the past few summers being quite a struggle for me.

Moving back to the summer bucket list - since many fourteen thousand foot peak trails or other high country trails aren't open until mid to late June (due to the snow factor), a person really only has 2 to 2 1/2 months to fit in a certain number of stellar trips.   With that in mind, I've decided to share my summer's bucket list:

Tara's 2013 Summer Bucket List:

  1. Hike Mt. Princeton  - a fourteen thousand foot mountain  (I hiked this mountain years ago, but my daughter wants to experience the hike as we see it daily while driving into town - see photo below)
  2. Hike one other 14er
  3. Three day August backpacking trip with my bosom buddy somewhere local - maybe along the Colorado Trail Collegiate Peaks segments
  4. Camper camping at least three times
  5. Multiple fishing trips
  6. Helping my hubby recover from knee surgery
  7. Supporting my daughter to and from work for Southwest Youth Conservation Corps
  8. Finishing the Buena Vista Autumn Color Half Marathon run in under 2 hours (this really takes place in autumn - not summer)

click here for a fabulous PREZI of my bucket list

Mt. Princeton - on the way down Trout Creek Pass.  My morning view 5 days a week.

What is your 2013 summer bucket list?  Please share!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Travel Bug

While growing up, my first experience traveling away from the Midwest was during the summer of 1988.
I was almost 16 and didn't want to have much to do with my family at the time.  No matter, my parents loaded seven of us (family of six and my cousin) into a rented RV and drove us from Morton, Illinois to Yellowstone, Colorado, Utah and back.   Although you would never know by my lovely teenage smile in family photos (shown), the trip lit a fire inside of me and introduced me to the travel bug and my need for wilderness.
The most memorable parts of the trip were things that I learned about myself.  First, I loved road tripping and seeing everything that was new along the way.  Traveling in a camper, with several others, didn't really bother me because I knew a new adventure always lay ahead. Second, I loved the fact that Yellowstone National Park had volcanic activity right under our feet and could technically blow at any time.  This was absolutely thrilling to me.  Third, I loved exploring the new and exciting things around me and just being outside made me feel at home.  For as long as I can remember, I've always LOVED just spending time outside.  This eventually led to living outside (summer or winter) for over 2 1/2 years, which I'll write about sometime in the future.   Lastly, I learned I hated being on a bus tour.  My parents paid for the whole family to take a fabulous bus trip through Yellowstone so we could see all the areas we hadn't seen.  I remember looking out the window, just wanting to get off the bus any second so I could explore.  It was PURE torture.  Being able to touch, smell, hear and experience adventure was something I craved and needed.

Thinking back to that classic family "wild west trip" turned out to lay the foundation for my many trips around the world, hiking mountain peaks, living out of my car (gypsy gal style) and to eventually moving to Colorful Colorado.                                                              

I just love these photos!  Don't they just crack you up?  The one above in front of the tee-pee was taken at Yellowstone National Park.  The photo to the left was taken at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado (L-R:  me, cousin, sister, brother, mother and sister)

Do you remember how you felt during your first travel experience?  If so, I'd love to read about.  Please share in the comment section or contact me.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Difference Between WANTING and NEEDING Change

I need change.

I need something else.

I need movement.

I need a new job.

I need to travel.

Do the above statements sound familiar to you?  Throughout my life these thoughts have come in and out of my head like the tides.  Acting on them gives me comfort and feeds an inner urge I can't explain. NOT being able to act on my need for change picks away at my zest for life.  Explaining these feelings to someone else can be difficult, especially if they are very content without change, exploring or movement.  Before you can begin to explain your need for change YOU must be able to come to an understanding of WHY you feel this way.  So, let's think about the difference between wanting something and needing something.

What is the difference between wanting change and needing change?

A WANT is a desire.  For example, you desire a new car - even though yours is running fine.  You may desire a new coat because the one you have is out of style.  You don't NEED a new coat because the one you have now still keeps you warm.  Would replacing the coat make you happier?   Maybe.  If you didn't buy a new coat and kept your old one, would you feel depressed, withered or tortured?  If you must keep up with the fashion world, you might feel a bit embarrassed, but most wearing an older coat will not wither away your happiness of life.

Now, let's think about NEED.  Merriam-Webster's dictionary states "a need is a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism".  We need water to live.  We need heat to keep us warm from freezing temperatures.  We need energy, in the form of food and vitamins, to move around, stay alive and fight disease and sickness.  Really without meeting basic survival needs the human population would not exist.

The words well-being described in Merriam-Websters definition brings a few things to mind, such as  feeling comfortable, happy, thriving, progressive, successful and satisfied.  Without well-being a person might feel depressed, withered, not themselves, tortured, distressed and maybe even a bit crazy.

After reading about the differences of "want" vs "need", how do YOU feel
about YOUR need to change now?  I challenge you to really think about your inner self and how you deal with the love for change. If you feel yourself withering without it, you were probably born with the gene that makes you who you are.  Welcome to the family.

If you'd like further guidance in explaining your urge for change to someone close to you, please contact me.  My service is free and I have a lot of experience in this area.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Got Restless Genes?

You may have found this blog while trying to find answers on why you seek perpetual change or why you feel stir crazy when things should be "just fine".

To help you further explore the idea of possibly carrying the "adventure gene",  below are some questions that may bring some humor and enlightenment to your thoughts.  These questions are based on questions I've asked myself over the past few years.  They've helped me realize I'm not crazy, but part of an amazing group of people living on this planet who are adaptable, movable and ready to survive.

 Think You Have Restless Genes?  Ask Yourself.... 

1)  Do you feel a natural high when starting a new job, major project or travel adventure?
2)  Do you wonder why you repeatedly find yourself slipping into the ho-hum doldrums only after one to three years of starting yet ANOTHER new job?  
3)  Do you thrive in work involving the outdoors, traveling or emergency services vs. an office setting job?
4)  Do you feel more "out of control" when stability settles in for too long and more "in control" during times of movement and unpredictability? 
5)  Do you know you would be a survivor and would adapt to anything if the world nearly came to an end?
6)  Does the possibility of leaving earth to live on Mars excite you?
7)  Are you drawn to new destinations, countries or situations that have higher instability or danger....just because you "feel" you need the experience?
8)  Does the thought of "settling down" make you feel uneasy?  Or if you did "settle down", did it take you many years of moving around to pick a location as "home base"?
9)  Do you follow the blogs of individuals, retirees and families who gave up everything to travel the world?
10)  Have family or friends called you any of the following names;  explorer, nomad, gypsy, free spirited, black sheep, globetrotter, vagabond, drifter, wanderer, pilgrim or traveler?
11) Do you hear yourself saying, "I need a change", every couple of years...referring to a MAJOR LIFE CHANGE, not the color of paint in your bedroom?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, chances are you carry the restless gene.  We aren't freaks of nature and by no means cursed for life.  In reality we share something special that sets us apart from others.  During times of emergency or uncertainty, our instincts set in.  We tend to make decisions  based less on emotion so we're more response ready.  We also easily separate ourselves from the negative impact of others, which helps us remain focused.  Really, when it comes down to it, those without the restless gene will need us in order to survive the next meteor disaster.  Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Restless Genes?

For most of my life I have loved change - whether it's in the form of new opportunities, traveling, meeting new people or seeking adventure.  Looking forward to the next challenge fills a void deep within me and settles my restlessness.  I also find that working for the same company for more than two years is difficult.   When boredom begins to set in, that is my cue to start looking for another job. Recently, I have begun to question why I'm like this.

My inspiration for learning more about this topic and connecting with other people stems from an article that was featured in the 125th anniversary issue of National Geographic.  The article, "Restless Genes" by David Dobbs, is a great introduction that explains what may cause some people to feel restless.  It also addresses why some people need to change their environment frequently and/or have the urge to explore.

According to the article, around 20% of the world's population share an amazing "adventure gene" known as DRD4-7R.  (I will write about this in more detail later).  Although I haven't been tested (yet) to see if I carry the DRD4-7R gene, I feel as though it runs through my blood. In recognizing the genetic component for a deep sense of change, I feel compelled to explore the topic and reach out to others, who share similar characteristics and urges.

My hope for this website is to provide the resources and connections that will celebrate the restlessness within us and increase our ability to thrive and be happy.  Whether you are a college student, parent, young adult, the CEO of a major corporation or live in the wild, this will be the place to connect, find stories and learn of opportunities to satisfy your wandering needs.