Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cautiously Optimistic

Cautiously optimistic.

That’s what I keep telling everyone around me these days when they ask, “How are you feeling?” In the past the answer to that question has always had to do (mostly) with how badly I was feeling. The answer varying by degrees of “sickness” as well as degrees of “how-transparent-do-I-want-to-be-ness”. Responses such as, “I’m hanging in there” and “I’ve had better days” or maybe even “This has been a good week” are the typical responses. But never, in all of my drug therapies, hospitalizations, surgeries, infusions…never have I been able to say that I am cautiously optimistic. In fact, I have never used those words in regards to this illness. And it’s not cautiously optimistic. It’s more of a...

Cautiously Optimistic!! (said with a smile)

Before I go any further… Yes, this is good news. This is very good news indeed.

Am I all better? Oh man, do I wish! I’m still sick. I still have neurological issues, I still have pain, I still have joint trouble and headaches, fatigue and GI problems…. Yep, it’s all still there. But very, very seldom can I say confidently that these things are changing. Little by little, they are changing. Some more than others. And it’s for the better, not for the worse. Considering the past couple of years have been a steady decline with more and more frightening symptoms, this is some pretty awesome news.

Without getting into too many details, I can break things down into the converging of three events. One, the new chemo infusion I am on, Rituximab. Two, our trip to Montana (and a couple of scientists we met there.) And three, a Medium Chain Triglyceride Nutrient Dense Ketogenic diet.

I received my Rituximab infusion in May. The decision to go on this was because of the neurological degeneration I was experiencing, consistent with MS, but undiagnosed. I was told at the time I received it that if it worked, it could be a “miracle drug”. I was also told that I might not feel the effects of it until sometime after month three, maybe even four or five. About two weeks before we were to leave on our trip out to Montana this Fall, I had hints of starting to feel better. This thrilled me because Dave and I have never been on a true vacation without kids and this was some place that neither of us had ever been. If you follow me on facebook you already know how successful that trip was! It was truly a life changing experience.

Because I was starting to feel the positive effects of the chemo, I had less pain and fatigue. It was perfect timing. There I sat, mountains before me, and I actually felt like climbing them. The little over two weeks that we were there were a series of pivotal events. Each event put me in a place of literally and figuratively “me vs. mountain”. I did things I never thought I would ever do again - and some I won’t.  On numerous occasions I was in situations that were absolutely terrifying (and some not so smart!). Situations that included hiking at heights that I was unqualified to hike at, driving on mountain passes not made for a goat, getting lost in a desert canyon without food or water or glucose (for Dave) or phone reception or a gun or bear spray or sunset. Traversing paths where grizzlies and mountain lions reside without proper safety mechanisms… Now, before you send me a note scolding me, let it suffice to say that the majority of the time we were safe and took the right precautions. And some of that time we were relying on a friend that was much more qualified that either Dave nor I. But there were times where, in hindsight, we thought ourselves a bit foolish. But…. But...each time I found myself in this really odd space of being scared out of my mind and then working through that fear with mindfulness. Sometimes it was just pushing myself to a higher altitude, literally with each step, forcing all of my strength into the against mountain (illness). Sometimes it was absolute fear and having no place to go. No one to look to other than myself. Situations that I could not quickly get out of and had to think clearly about. In my mind, these are situations in the past where I would have broken down, freaked out, cried like a frightened child. But I didn’t. In any of them. Not one. I thought clearly, I was renewed a by lack of fatigue and I worked my way through each scenario. Each time ending in a place (figuratively and literally) that was a little bit higher than before. By the end of the trip, I felt like I could conquer the world. This feeling has not left.

Somewhere in all that adventure, we were hiking one of those paths we should have never been on and much to our surprise we came upon two people. That, in and of itself can be unusual when you are hiking little known paths, but really unusual in that they were both scientists. One specializing in diabetes and the other in...yep, autoimmune disease! We had a conversation with these two that, to this day, I still feel like. “ Did that really happen? ” But yes, it really did. We went back to our cabin that night and googled them! They had a lot of information to share on leading edge science in regards to immunology and cancer. We got information on studies to research, other scientists to look for, names of authors and a wealth of other valuable leads. We swapped emails and by the time we got home to Wisconsin Dave had already received an email with more information. That’s where the Medium Chain Triglyceride Nutrient Dense Ketogenic Diet comes in. Something much, much too complicated to discuss in this post, but if you want to read what I know about it and how it is working with me, click here .  

Needless to say, I began researching the second I got home. I consulted my doctors, began working with a special pharmacist, got blood work done and started the protocol immediately. Disclaimer: This is NOT a “diet”. This is a process in which food is used as medicine in a very particular manner. It is also not for everyone and should only be done after consulting with your physician. It can actually make you sick or make some conditions worse if not done properly.

This concept is not new (beginning in 1920) , although it has changed significantly in recent years. Currently, this protocol is being used successfully for severe epilepsy. Studies are underway and early signs are extremely encouraging for things such as MS, Autoimmune disease, Cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, TBI, Psychosis, to name a few. I have been told that the University of Minnesota currently uses a form of this for children with severe epilepsy. It seems to be most beneficial for diseases of the brain and nervous systems, but is also quite promising for autoimmune disease in general.

Because I was already experiencing improvement from the Rituximab, when combined with my new sense of empowerment (also known as "I'm ready to kick this disease in the ass!"), it made starting this incredibly complicated and not so fun protocol manageable. I’ll tell you right now, without the assistance of Rituximab, I would not have been capable of doing this. If I would have gotten this information three months ago I would have been too sick to even consider it. It takes a lot of work and thinking .The results have been nothing short of amazing. Immediately I noticed a decrease in fatigue and an increase in energy. Especially at the end of my day when I am usually so sick I just want Dave to rub my back so that I can disappear into a pill induced coma. Shortly thereafter I started realizing that some things were becoming easier for me. Remembering things. Writing and spelling. Multitasking. Driving. Balance. Brain fog. Headaches. All improving. Not gone by any means, and I have a long way to go, but improving.

So where to go from here? Well, I met with doctors this week and the plan is to stay on all medications with no changes. My next chemo infusion is scheduled for November. I will take two months to get strong after the second dose infusion and if things are still improving we can start tapering some medications in January, with hopes of getting off some. I am also starting to see a Functional Medicine Doctor at an integrative clinic, in conjunction with my team at the U of MN.

Do you know how exciting it is for me to type that? I am sitting here crying as I hit the keys. And yet...I am so scared. So I ask you to please keep me in your thoughts. Allow me to be positive, but don’t forget that I struggle every single day with this disease. This new endeavor is quite the challenge and it’s going to take a lot of strength and commitment on my part. I need your encouragement. I need your understanding. And most of all, I need for you to walk with me and be…

Cautiously Optimistic!

A million thank-yous would not be enough.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hiking the JMT

     ...from bed on a quiet summer night.

BWCA 2008
Last week Dave and I watched an outstanding independent documentary called Mile...Mile & A Half, The Muir Project . In a nutshell, it's about a small group of artists that "take a month off from life" to hike California's John Muir Trail, the 219-mile stretch from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. Usually these types of documentaries star the more typical adventurists. You know the kind, the "Mt. Everest-in-an-afternoon" kind with ripped calf muscles and million dollar gear. Not so in this film. It's a small group of friends, just like you and I (minus illness...or maybe not), who came up with a crazy idea one night after a good dinner and a bottle or two of wine.  But what I liked about it was that they were "normal folk" on a path to find out what the wilderness had to teach them and to ultimately share that lesson with others. This wasn't about climbing the highest mountain or enduring extreme weather conditions, it was about returning to nature for a duration where time and road were long enough that the weight of what separates man from Spirit was simply to heavy to bring along.

The Canoe BWCA 2008
As I watched the film, I found myself struggling between getting completely lost in the journey and grieving the fact that I am no longer able make that sort of a trip. In fact, what felt most painful was the realization that the ability to dream about making that kind of a trip was gone. I wanted so desperately to turn off the TV, grab a notebook and make my "pie in the sky" plans with the man that I love. Just like we did when we made our plans to travel from the Boundary Waters to the Gulf of Mexico in the canoe he built. When we had those discussions it was very much a reality. Did it ever happen? No...but it could have. Well, right now, at least in the foreseeable future, hiking 219 miles is realistically not going to happen. And that made me grumpy. Very, very grumpy.

What I went through after watching the video is no different than what any one of us goes through on any given day in our lives. It feels desperately specific to my situation as a chronically ill person, but in reality it is not. Oh, how often (if not always) our suffering comes out of our frustration with what is. For me, this transpires quite often into fear. Fear that I am somehow not where I should be in this life. Which usually comes directly after I have judged myself against this platonic ideal of "me" that I quite often compare myself to. There's even a "sick me" that I to compare myself to. But we all do it. We form this picture of what should be, usually a combination of traits from all the perfect people in the world that have mastered said quality, and then we hold that picture up to ourselves in the mirror and say, "What's wrong with me?" When in fact, we should be saying, "What's wrong with this picture?"!  

The only way I know to stop this insanity is to surrender. Yield to what is - don't resist it. Our fear would like to convince us that the only way to solve our problem is to create these negative thoughts. It's the same misguided parenting style that tells us the only way to get a child to change is to shame them. Make them feel bad. Oh, you may get a very obedient child out of the deal, but definitely not a healthy happy child. You and I are no different. After a few days of fear, which was directly transferred as anger toward everyone in my life that was not sick, I decided to just yield to what is. Stop resisting and drop the emotional negativity. Once we drop the negative emotion of a particular situation, once we surrender (stop labeling what IS), we are left with the ability to take action. Positive action. Like I stated in my recent post Eight Months...but then again, whose counting, "Good solutions come out of clear, unemotional thinking." I promise you, if you continue to surrender, give up the negative self talk, you will achieve positive results. How can they not be - they're based on reality!

So, there are no plans in the near future (you don't have to give up hope all together) to hike the JMT (I can at least abbreviate like a pro), but something did come out of watching that great little independent documentary (that I HIGHLY suggest watching). And that is this, that I went to my shelf and dusted off my copy of John Muir The Eight Wilderness-Discovery Books and started to read. And I kid you not, as I lay in bed last night reading, I felt like I was there. I could feel the breeze and smell the grass and hear the birds that he so eloquently describes singing high above me. His joy and wonder became my joy and wonder. There was a stillness that filled me.

Over 114 years ago John Muir opened his book Our National Parks with these words,
The tendency nowadays to wonder in wilderness is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, never-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.    
When I return to Nature I return to myself, without all the weight of worldly trappings or that miserable picture of who I should be in my backpack. I would do good to remember this. For just as those six hikers began their journey by saying they left "life" behind and went to the JMT, I would say quite the opposite. They went to the JMT and found life. Just like I did, from the comfort of my bed on a quiet summer night.

He continues,
Awaking from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their own little ongoings with those of Nature, and to get rid of rust and disease. Briskly venturing and roaming, some are washing off sins and cobweb cares of the devil's spinning in all day storms on mountains; sauntering in rosiny pinewoods or in gentian meadows, brushing through chaparral, bending down and parting sweet, flowery sprays; tracing rivers to their sources, getting in touch with the nerves of Mother Earth; jumping from rock to rock, feeling the life of them, learning the songs of them, panting in whole-souled exercise, and rejoicing in deep, long-drawn breaths of pure wildness. This is fine and natural and full of promise.



My father, me, my daughter Amanda and Dave. Such great memories!
Superior Trail, BWCA 2008


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Learning To Float

The view from our bedroom door/window. 

Last week my family and I spent seven days in a cabin on an island in northern Minnesota. We found this Shangri-La two years ago and honestly thought we would never be fortunate enough to experience it again. But as luck would have it, there was a cancellation the week of the Fourth of July and the caretakers offered it to us on a whim. At nearly 11pm on a cold February night I responded to the email without question, “Yes! We will come!”

Six months passed and our allotted time finally arrived. On the heels of a week full of family visiting from out of state, we took off for the island exhausted and ready for the quiet peacefulness offered by a small piece of land completely surrounded by beautiful clear lake water. With our first visit back in 2010 vivid in my mind, I could hardly wait to sit out on the deck in the cool breeze, read the books I had brought, fish the abundant waters, fill myself on camp food and nap whenever the need arose.

The day before we were set to take off, John (of John and Kim, the owners/caretakers) called us to warn us that they had had record rainfall and that the lakes were at least three feet above their normal levels. There were no beaches and most docks were completely under water. He assured us that he had created a makeshift solution and we should have no problem getting onto the island. John, the eternal optimist.

When we arrived at the mainland dock, we were immediately amazed at the height of the water. He was right, there were no beaches and everyone’s docks were under water. What we also noticed was that due to the damming of the lakes being fed by the Mississippi, the waters were full of tannin. Tannin is humic acid that is left in the water from decaying vegetation, primarily leaves. Our clear lake water looked like root beer – dark, dark brown with a reddish tinge. On a positive note, as John put it, “it’s as warm as bathwater”. And it most definitely was!

Our first day on the island.

Our first day there was mostly spent setting up camp and running back into town for groceries. Our week would eventually include my oldest daughter and her family as well as my parents, so this food haul would be a big one – about $500 worth. Running to the store is no easy endeavor when you are on an island, so we wanted to get everything all in one trip. Being that our day started around 5am, we had traveled over half a day to get there and the temperature was creeping near 100 degrees with high humidity (no air conditioning in our vehicle or in the cabin)  – we ended our first day absolutely exhausted. I use the word “we” very loosely as I did very little of this work. Just managing to stay cool and not get sick was my number one priority. This was Saturday.

Sunday was another very hot and humid day. As the afternoon approached the skies turned a thick dark gray. With a storm on the horizon we told the girls that we could go out on the pontoon for only a short while. I think we left around 6pm. After less than an hour of fishing, Dave gave the two-minute warning. Not wanting to end our first trip short I joked with, “Ah, just five more minutes?” Nope, we’re heading back. There was to be no discussion.

You hear stories about people not having time to react when bad weather hits. I’ve learned not to take this fact of nature lightly. When we arrived onto the island we walked up the hill toward the cabin. I noticed that the girl’s suits and towels were still hanging on the line. I told Dave he should grab them so that they don’t get all wet. As he walked over to the line I noticed this wall coming across the water. It was not a wall of rain. It was simply a wall and it was coming fast. I yelled at him to leave the suits and come into the cabin. We barely made it into the cabin and the floor began to shake.

The cabin.

There is no basement. The cabin sits atop a hill on a cinder block foundation. The only place for us to go was to situate ourselves in front of the stone fireplace on the opposite side of the wind. Before we could even get huddled together on the stone ledge the trees around us began to snap. Some being pulled completely out of the ground, others were snapping off half way to the top. The noise was like nothing I have ever heard. For our teenagers, the whole ordeal was somewhat like a roller-coaster ride. Nervous laughter filled the air. For me, wisdom and experience made this the most frightening storm of my life. In a matter of less than ten minutes, our peaceful island looked like a war zone.

This picture was actually taken on our 2010 trip, but gives you a good idea of where we sat during the storm.

We were standing in front of the window to the left just as this tree went down. 

Every building was spared. Not one tree fell on a roof. The largest tree fell right on top of the clothesline that Dave had been standing at when I yelled for him to come in. It literally fell right between the two trees that were holding the line up. For the next couple of hours we sat in the dark as storm cells passed through. Around 11pm we heard a faint voice calling out in the dark, “Is everyone okay?” It was John! Somehow he had made it on his barge/pontoon across the lake. As my husband said that night, he looked like the old man and the sea. Covered from head to toe in rain gear and a small headlight attached to his forehead, he came walking toward the cabin with coolers and ice in hand. By nights end he had supplied us with a place to put our food and lamps to see by.  Night number two, we fell into our beds exhausted and hot, barley sleeping in order to keep our ears open for the next storm cell. That was Sunday.

John, the day after the storm hit. 

This is the tree that went down on the clothesline. 

One of the trees that snapped in the middle.

Monday morning John and Kim arrived with their good friends Ed and Gloria. The kind of friends that you can call at midnight the night before that hop in their car, no questions asked, and drive for hours with chainsaws in hand in order to help you out in a bad situation. The kind of friends that spend the next two days from sunrise to sunset in stifling heat and humidity cutting, lifting and raking all the while with smiles on their faces and laughter to ease the pain. All the while making sure we had what we needed – even a generator to run the fridge and water pump so we could have water to drink and a toilet to use. Remember, everything has to come over by boat. And once here, has to make it’s way onto the island and up a hill – a hill now covered with fallen trees. I’ve never seen people work so hard. That was Monday and Tuesday.

Ed, making his way through the next tree. 

John..."Everything has a process." And so it does. 

From left to right: Kim, John, Gloria and Ed. "The Fearless Four"!

By Wednesday the sky had cleared and the electricity seemed as if it was going to stay on. Finally, we could cook, see clearly at night and run our fans! I called my daughter as well as my folks and told them that they might want to consider staying home. Even though the storm had finally moved out, it was hot and the electricity situation was sketchy at best. Neither took me up on the suggestion. By Wednesday morning Aleela, Keith and baby Adella arrived. By Wednesday afternoon my parents stepped foot on the island. By Wednesday evening the second storm was on its way. This one forecasted to be worse than the first, 80+ mph straight line winds, damaging hail and lightening. This time we all barely made it off the island. Thankfully we had rented my folks a motel room in town due to the heat, so we all headed that direction. Let me tell you, I was in complete panic mode. When Keith notified me (he has satellite internet service on his phone) that the storm was on its way, my heart just sank. How could we have put all these loved ones in this danger? Why didn’t I tell them all to stay home? But there was no time for remorse, we packed up the bare necessities, ran down the hill and boarded the pontoon. Every second we were on that water seemed like an eternity. All I could imagine was that wall coming across the water again. There was no way we would stay afloat. Once again, we barely set foot on shore, ran up to our vehicles and the wind hit. Branches blowing across the road we sped towards town. We waited storm number two out at the Timber Lodge Hotel and by nightfall we were back on the island with no electricity. That was Wednesday.

Emma and Leslie coloring by sunset.

Thursday the heat and humidity moved out and we had a simply lovely day. My parents had purchased a one-day fishing license and Thursday was the day. We spent the morning and the better part of the afternoon under the shade of the pontoon canopy pulling up sunfish barely big enough to swallow a hook. And swallow it they did! Most of our catches were thrown back in only to be gobbled up by the eagles that surrounded us. One keeper in all, but it was a perfect outing. It’s been years since I have fished with my mom and dad. I will cherish those hours for the rest of my life. As our luck would have it, for some random reason the electricity went out again Thursday evening. There were thousands still with out power, so my guess is that whatever the fix was, it was temporary at best. That was Thursday.

Keith, finding a few hours to fish between storms.

Friday we awoke to extremely overcast skies, torrential rain and no electricity. It rained all day. The temperature dropped significantly and the cool breeze made it sweatshirt weather. A welcome change!! Thanks to Aleela and her ability to make just about any situation fun, the teenagers had a wonderful last night at the cabin. They stayed up late playing cards and pictionary and I was lulled to sleep by the sound of their laughter floating up the stairs to our room. That was Friday.

Adella and I, watching the rain at 5am, waiting for the electricity to return.

The girls playing cards Friday night. 

Saturday morning we all awoke at 4:30am with my granddaughter Adella. She was to be the alarm clock and with perfect timing she awoke on schedule. By 6:30 they were packed up and back on the mainland and by 7:30 we were in our van and heading into town. As we rode our fully loaded pontoon back to shore the weather could not have been more perfect. The air was crisp and still, the water like glass, the sky deep blue and the loons, not more than 20 feet away, calling back and forth to each other to greet the morning and bid us our farewell. It was surreal. No one spoke. There was only listening. There was only that moment, in that place, in that time.

I’m pretty sure if I could have listened into the minds of my teenagers I would have heard quite a different “tune” than what I was experiencing in that moment. By day three they were asking if we were going to stay or go home. Roughing it is not exactly a 16-year-old's idea of a vacation. Although, if they admit it or not, they had their moments of fun. Moms know these things.

So here I sit. It’s Wednesday of the following week. We’ve been home four and a half days and I’m still recovering. I think adrenalin (and pain medication) kept me going and it was not until we arrived home that I realized the toll the past two weeks took on me. Thankfully there was literally nothing for me to do when I got home. Our daughter Anna stayed back this trip due to work, and made our homecoming simply delightful. Once she heard how the trip was going, she made it her goal to make sure I was able to rest the minute I walked into the door. The house was absolutely spotless, the plants and gardens watered, the laundry done, the refrigerator stocked, the garage clean, the sheets changed…she didn’t miss a detail – even a welcome home sign on the kitchen whiteboard. It was a gesture of love and compassion in its truest form, and I was moved beyond words. This is my daughter, Anna.

I knew I wanted to write about the week eventually, but for the first few days I really struggled - one, because of pure exhaustion, and two, because I really did not know what or how I wanted to write. I wanted to recount the week and its details, yet something was pulling at me, as something always does. Something bigger.

As life will do after any vacation, it hit me pretty hard. Even though our time on the island was full of it’s share of struggle and daily maintenance, it was still a reprieve from the “norm”. And despite the coming and going of weather and electricity, there were moments pregnant with beauty and all that nature sings to our hearts in the spaces of stillness. These minutes were enough to carry me away from the pain of illness, to empty my mind of the family crisis and struggles left behind back home and to bring me comfort. There were times when even though I felt like I was literally drowning, there was peace to be found under the water. The peace that comes when you give up the struggle only to realize that you can float. The peace that comes when you stop fighting against what “is”.   

Enjoying the last evening on the island after the rain cleared. 

This is the lesson I brought home with me. I didn’t realize it at first. When life “hit” and I lay in bed crying, filling my head with stories of “I can’t” and “this is too much” and the pain of things I have absolutely no control over came rushing in like the flood waters up north – I finally just let myself go under. Like the moment Dave looked at me during the first storm and said, “Honey, this is all we can do” – I just had to let go. And you know what – I float. When we stop struggling, we float. We just need to rest enough of ourselves below the surface of things until we find ourselves upheld. Believe me, this is not an easy thing to do. But the heart of trust is believing you will be held up when you let go. It’s only under the surface that we become weightless and things slow down. This letting go - this is faith. That we cannot stay under for  very long only affirms that we must let go again and again in order to live life to its fullest.

Why didn’t we just head home after the first storm? That seems pretty obvious to me now.


It's a little bit funny...
(for Sara Jane)

It's a little bit funny this feeling inside 
I'm not one of those who can easily hide 
I don't have much money but boy if I did 
I'd buy a big house where we both could live 

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no 
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show 
I know it's not much but it's the best I can do 
My gift is my song and this one's for you 

And you can tell everybody this is your song 
It may be quite simple but now that it's done 
I hope you don't mind 
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words 
How wonderful life is while you're in the world 

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss 
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross 
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song 
It's for people like you that keep it turned on 

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do 
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue 
Anyway the thing is what I really mean 
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy Camper

The first weekend in the new camper was a complete success...but not without a few bumps and some great stories. 

Dave took Friday afternoon off so we could get on the road at a decent time. Our destination - Willow River State Park - about 20 minutes from our front door. Perfect for our "trial run". Plus, the kids had end of the year projects requiring them to be home at different times, so the close destination allowed Dave to shuttle them back and forth. This was definitely not a relaxing weekend, especially for Dave. But wonderful nonetheless!

Camper loaded, we jumped on the two lane highway that would lead us to our final destination. It was a perfect day. Sunshine, cool breeze and nothin' but shit-eatin grins covering both of our faces. And then...


These are the tracks that were left by the car that lost control in the opposite lane and screeched toward us in our lane. Yes, our lane is the one to the right. In the blink of an eye. It was the closest I have ever been to a real head on collision. HOW Dave managed to move the van and trailer over quick enough without losing control still dumbfounds me. Brakes locked, the oncoming car barely squeezed between our trailer and the line of cars in the other lane. The roads were packed! Three cars wide, this crazy driver managed to maneuver his way out of the middle and back into the correct lane without damage. We pulled off into the parking lot of the campground and sat in disbelief. All Dave could say was, "What just happened?" Crazy.

Happy to be alive, we put the near miss behind us and headed to our spot in the woods. It might be good to mention here the importance of looking at all the sites prior to making one's reservation instead of assuming that all spots will look like the ones previously camped at.

This was our spot in the woods...

Not really the "surrounded by the depth of the forest" I was looking for. But hey! This is a trial run, I'm happy to be alive and I'm ready to set up home in the camper of my dreams! Life is good.

Dave took care of all the outdoor set-up and I went inside to make a pot of coffee. (Oh....the stress of it all...) Here is a shot of Dave drinking his first cup of coffee. It's the simple things, isn't it? 

I figured out that by leaving the front window cover down, I did not have to look at the highway where we just about ended our lives. Out of sight, out of mind!

This is a picture of Dave's parents, Ralph and Bernice. It is their life and love that made this camper a reality for us. Never will a camping trip go by without this picture at the head of our table. These smiles, a constant reminder of their love for family, for travel and for the great outdoors.

We love you Mom and Dad. 

Our first guests were Anna and Evan. They came for supper the first evening and had to head back for jobs in the morning. After supper Dave made a fire and we sat and visited while eating smores for desert. It was the perfect ending to our first day.

Sara was the first daughter to sleep in the camper. This is her pretending to be asleep for the picture!

This is Dave REALLY asleep. Exhausted from the days events, all it took was getting horizontal and he was out like a light!

Sara got to pick out the first breakfast of the trip and she ordered up pancakes. Other than getting used to new heat, a different pan and a sticky spatula...they turned out pretty good.

I think this is the look of satisfaction...and a full tummy.

Bound and determined to get me into the woods, Dave decided that he would take a look around.

And by 5:00pm on our second day, he did exactly that. THIS is spot #2! Smack dab in the middle of the forest! He found a site that did not have a reservation sticker on it, confirmed that it was a "no show" and waited up at the ranger station until five minutes after the official deadline for cancellation.

A man with a mission...

"RRrrrrr....I have created fire!"

Emma was the second daughter to stay with us. Her boyfriend, Tucker, brought her out and they spent the evening around the fire with us. Before Tucker took off for the night we polished off what was left of the smores. It was a wonderful ending to our second night of camping.

This is Emma drinking hot chocolate by the morning campfire. She ordered eggs, bacon and toast for her breakfast, so this is her patiently waiting...

...while I fried up breakfast inside!! My daughter Anna was talking the other day about Dave and how he always has a way of making things easier for people. He's great at fixing things and even better at making good things AMAZING. She then said it would not surprise her if one day I could do everything I need to do from bed...well folks, this comes pretty close!

I'll leave you with a couple of shots that Dave took on his journeys out and about last weekend. With this being our "trial run" and all that it takes to get things set up, there was not much time for relaxing. But he did manage to sneak out Sunday morning and make it to the falls.

We're definitely hooked! We came home that night and immediately started working on reservations for the rest of the summer. Having a small camper means less work inside for me, plus all the comforts of home that make this a possibility for someone who does not always feel so great. As I walked around in the woods on Sunday I found myself on the verge of tears...good tears. I honestly never thought I would be able to do this again. And smelling the smells of woods and campfire, watching parents walk their children along the paths, hearing the birds wind down the day and greet me in the morning - it made me incredibly full. Full of thankfulness and joy to be alive. I told Dave, when we made this decision, that this was one of the biggest items on my bucket list. In fact, it was number one. Now, how many people can say they've checked off number one?

Imagine that!