That time my Mom got stage 4 cancer

Stage 4 kidney cancer. What does that even mean? It’s a question I ask over and over and over. I could quote things from cancer websites or pamphlets from the hospital. But the answer I’m looking for isn’t in the booklets. No, the answer I’m looking for is kept some where deep inside. Some where no PhD can answer. I always knew no one leaves this life alive however to know something intellectually and experience it first hand, any one can see the difference.

What stage 4 cancer means in my life was not what I was expecting at all! Although things rarely happen the way I expect them, that’s why God invented therapy.

Stage 4 kidney cancer:

It means everything, yet It also means nothing.

It means everything because now I know. Now I know to call more, stay a little longer and forgive a little quicker.

It means nothing because life is running on its own time. My death date is what it is. We all die. The feeling of powerless over the out come opens up room to just relax and live one day at a time. Gods on the job.

It means There will be times when the phone rings and the other end is full of tears. I listen. Don’t make it better. Don’t fill the silence with “well at least you caught it” or “at least it wasn’t 20 years ago” I just try say “thank you for sharing your pain, let me share with you mine…”

It means I bring my babies over to see her. Let them be kids around her. It will be healing for them and me and her. Some times the normal sounds of laughter or cries or the tiny feet on the stairs is all that is needed to balance the scales.

It means if my 4 year old asks me to sit next them with a cup of hot chocolate I try to take the time and be grateful when i can and ditch the guilt when i can’t.

It means that thing I have been putting off saying to whom ever it is I haven’t been saying it to, say it. An extra I appreciate you can go a long long way.

It means get comfortable with feeling completely powerless over all results and circumstances. It pisses me off. It’s important to let it. Anger is a normal human emotion. It’s there to help guide me to know when something isnt right, stage 4 cancer isn’t right! I feel it, talk about it and until it can be let it go, I keep working at it.

It means hug a few seconds longer. Hugging actually produces all kinds of helpful things in our brains and bodies. Aside from the fact that it helps to feel like a being in the presence of another being. Connection chases off all loneliness.

It means to keep a sense of humor. We affectionately refer to my moms gigantic tumor as her change of life alien baby boy. It was big enough to be a baby. My moms nickname now with me is Sigourney Weaver, inspired by the movie Alien. Always enjoy the laughs. Ditch the guilt or shame that just because someone is dealing with something so serious that I can’t enjoy life with them.

It means to text or email that funny kid story or video. In the dark of night those moments, to be able to replay, will get them to the next hour until the sun begins to rise.

It means this cancer isn’t mine. It’s hers. Give room for dignity in the suffering. To allow room for my family. To still travel as intended or family days as intended. To look my partner in the eye and see them. Because when the hard days of my own suffering comes, and they will come, I am going to need them. I can’t give support I don’t have my self.

Stage 4 cancer can mean 100 different things for 100 different people. In the art of medicine every case is so different. The answers I’m looking for aren’t found in consultations or CT scans. The answers I’m looking for are right in front of me, things I have been striving to do all along.

Love hard!

Dig deep!

Trust the process!

Connect to the Creator.

As I find a way though my journey, leave room for others to find their way through theirs.

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Part Three: Where failure is part of success

While walking the trails in life often brings many lessons to the surface. For Nathan it was finding the drive to go forward even though he wouldn’t make it. Try again! Always do your best! Leave nothing off the table! He spent weeks talking and processing loss of the summit. It was hard to not make it better for him. It would be a struggle to not find a way to give him a "participation trophy". Watching my son struggle was hard! I could have sat in the cheap seats throwing feel good one liners at him but instead I sat next him and said “me to." I talked about all the times I failed and his dad did the same thing and so did his uncle Jonah, we all sat next to him as in the speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

This was the trip he failed. Where he walked out the very things Teddy spoke about over 100 years ago that is apart of the human spirit that is the same over the span of time no matter what because humans are a part of the story and we really haven’t changed much, thank God.

Observation Rock was the final training mission. It was a 13 mile and 3500 of elevation gain. Intended to be harder then Camp Muir. It would be the hardest thing Nathan has ever done. However he was strong enough, it was safe enough and he was mentally ready to take on the challenge.

Abram and Nathan started up early in the morning. He and Abram had done everything right however sometimes things still go wrong.

At home, having no idea what was happening on the trail it turned out that almost half way into the hike the UV was high and Nathan had been drinking his water at least it looked like he had. Nathan was having a ball. He had his Dad all to him self. They were trekking a crossed all kinds of mountain man terrain. However one thing with kids is they often don’t pay as close attention to their body’s as adults do until it’s to late.

After an hour or two Nathan was starting to struggle more then normal. Abram opened Nathan’s pack to take some of his weight to find out Nathan hadn’t drank very much of his water at all, Abrams heart sank and he realized that if Nathan didn’t drink quickly this was going to become dangerous. In fact Nathan was already severely dehydrated and Abram had no idea. When you’re up in the mountains in the wind and with the UV high it literally sucks the moisture right out of your skin. So drinking lots of fluids is the best way to avoid heat exhaustion. The males in Abrams family are extremely susceptible to the heat and dehydrate quickly.

 

At one point a short text came through saying something like, “it’s hard but we are ok”. What I didn’t know was Nathan had gotten sick at 8000 feet. They were 300 feet from the top and turned around. Resting every 50 feet it took them 2 ½ hours to travel down. Abram had enough training to know the number one rule in an emergency situation in the mountains was to not make it worse. So he sat down to eat his lunch and Nathan collapsed next to a rock. It was then that out of no where his phone got coverage and his last text of “Nathan is not good, he’s in trouble” had come through on my phone even though he had tried to send it many times from hours earlier. It was as if God him self took Abrams shoulders and sat him down on that very rock on the side of the trail. When he stood up his coverage went away when he sat down he had full service. If he had kept walking the chance of not having help at all would have been very high. God’s kind reminder’s that surrender and be still is often when help arrives.

 

Once the text came through I tried to call and miraculously the call connected. I spoke with Abram for some time and I realized that he needed help him self. I have never in my life heard my husband say, “I don’t know what to do”. He is the mountain man, the trail guide; he knows what to do at all times. Except this time it was HIS son, he was a Dad first and a mountain man second. So we ran though a few scenarios. All of which included me calling people and sending help, through many transfers I got a hold of a lovely lady named Tabby in the Mount Rainer rangers office. She gave me a list of questions, almost all of which I was able to answer. And a rescue was set in motion.

 

I called Abrams brother Jonah. We spoke at length about what was happening all the while he is packing his pack and walking out the door. Abram and Jonah had been hiking partners for YEARS! And Jonah was the best person to go! He knows Abram with out either of them even really needing to speak. They can be in the woods and know what needs to happen next intuitively. With Jonah's wife in the drivers seat so he can hydrate and fuel up with food she drove him at high speeds up to the trail head they made it in record time and Jonah hit the trail. While he is on his way the ranger calls me back, she discovered that two rangers who just happened to be on the very same trail that day, after Tabby spoke with them it was then that Jim and Peggy turned around and headed back up the trail to see how they could help Abram and Nathan.

 

No sooner did Abram and Nathan set foot on the main trail did they walk right in to Peggy and Jim. A layer of relief had washed over Abram even though he had been doing what every parent does when there kid starts projectile vomit except this time he was 5 miles in on the side of a mountain! Turns out the solutions are the same, rest, small amounts of fluids and bland bready food. He was relived that he didn’t have to do this alone. Truth be told so was I.

 

A short time after Jonah showed up, a whopping 45 minutes from trail head to his brother yet again another layer of stress and worry fell off Abrams shoulders. Nathan also relaxed and was so happy to be walking with his uncle and his Dad. The rangers followed along as well after a very long walk everyone made it out safely.

 

After 14 hours on the trail Abram and Nathan were D O N E! Heat exhaustion subsided with tired and sore bodies one thing hung in the clouds above Nathan’s head, He didn’t make it! He was 300 feet short. It was his last training mission and he didn’t make it. He had finished on every other mission he set out to do. We have a saying in our house; Failure is a part of success based mainly off the quote at the beginning. When the kids trip on the trail or make a mistake or we as parents blow it big time we often talk about failing. Abram and I have taught our boys about failure and it is an important part of the journey through hiking and through life. Arguably one of the best baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth struck out twice as many times as he hit home runs. Surly if he had given up we would be deprived of watching an amazing player pave a path in history.

 

If we had insulated Nathan from the feeling of loosing he may not have wanted to try for the next goal. He may have given up. Because lets face it, when loosing happens it sucks! It hurts, it’s humbling and it can linger. Living where participation trophies are apart of our world we don’t talk about failure enough I think. As parents we isolate our selves in our homes not talking about the mistakes that happen when we screw it up with our kids or our spouses. Or the promotion someone deserves is over looked. Or the scale once again is back where we started and to talk about it hurts or we face the critical voices of our peers.

 

Learning how to fail is the key. Walking with people who are fighting in the same arenas are the only voices that count but instead the voice of the critic; the person with no kids, the CEO who has no more ladder to climb or the skinny supermodel on yet another magazine voices ring out loud and shaming.

 

For Nathan, the gift of failing was a good one. Supported by people in the same fight as him, we gave him the support to walk through the struggle, not get lost in the despair of failing. He learned the true meaning of something I heard a guy say once,

“Life is not always about getting to the top, it’s about being happy on the side of the mountain where you are.”

Not to say that striving for the top isn’t important because it is, but to know that sometimes we don’t always make it and that has to be ok. The time after we fail is where it counts the most.

What happened next was worth every recount of failure I have ever walked through. It was something that no parenting class or Internet article can ever describe. Watching Nathan put his boots back on and walk in the face of the very real chance he would fail again and yet he did it any way was something I was not prepared for. He knew he wasn't alone. He knew that fail or succeed he was a winner no matter what. Because winning some times is in the showing up as I heard in a parenting CD by Brene Brown.

Stay tuned for the Fourth and final chapter of the journey.

 

Part Two: The Climbers Code

Part Two: The Code

 

In spending time talking about Nathans dream to go “half way to the top” on our 14 hour drive home from So. Cal. We came up with what was to be called “Nathan’s training missions”. It was a series of 7 trips each one progressively harder then the next. Picked with a specific skill or experience in mind he would need to be able to accomplish his dream. Some designed for just sheer accomplishment others for learning to travel on rock or walking on snow and others still for distance or elevation gain.

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I drew out a chart on a big poster board with a thermostat gauge in the middle he was able to fill in with red marker he later determined was the lava rising to burst from the top when he made it “half way up”. It hung in our kitchen as a constant reminder of what he was working towards.

The first was where things were set in motion. A local peak named Mt peak was the first attainable easy mission. It’s a simple 3 mile 1000ft of gain local hill people hike all the time. It was certainly not Nathans first time up it, in fact his first trip up it was in a baby pack at 6 weeks old on Abrams chest. This time though they came home with more then just something to mark off the chart. They came home with a code. “The code” It was the code they were going to operate by.

It was made up of 5 points to guide them through this journey together to train not just the body but also the mind. Half the battle of climbing sometimes is the mental fortitude it takes to will your self to the destination. Each climbing code was born from trail and route experience when things went very wrong and also went very right. It’s also a code that applies to more then hiking. It applies to all areas really. Which is why it’s stuck around this whole time. What ever your path, there is always mountains to climb.

The Climbers Code

 

1. Get up and Down the Mountain Safe

 

2. Protect and Respect Nature

 

3   Always be Prepared

 

4   Find God

 

5   Have Fun

1 Get up and Down the Mountain Safe

Even when you do everything right things still go wrong because its nature and there is always something out of your control. If you were to know Abram at all you would know that he is someone who likes to take on a challenge, the harder the better. So it would come at no surprise that he was on a route, in February to climb Mt Rainer. Abram and his climbing partner at the time David were on the Kautz Glacier route. They had done everything right, checked avalanche reports, planed the route they would take and brought all the necessary things to Get up and Down safely.

After digging “pits” to check the snow quality along the route everything looked ok. But just because one spot was ok is not always a guarantee the next spot isn’t and that also means of course there are places you just can’t dig,  a steep, narrow gully on a mountainside that can be full of snow or full of loose rock is one of those places and they are typically crossed as fast and safely as possible.

It was here that Abram and David were caught in the avalanche.  Abram attempted to ice ax arrest and was knocked on to his back. Head over heals he tumbled for what could have been 3 seconds or 15 seconds either way his ice ax ripped his shoulder apart inside and all he could do was swim and hope to reach the surface before the snow stopped moving. When an avalanche slides it not only slides at a high rate of speed it also turns to an almost liquid and then compress into something similar to cement where it is incredibly hard to move. The decision to swim was probably the thing that saved his life.

When the slide stopped he was up right. Abram was buried to his waste, glacier glasses no longer on his head and he had a helmet full of snow. His climbing partner was down slop a bit but also up right and had a badly injured ankle. They walked off the mountain from a starting point of 12,500 feet. Eventually making it to safety. They had used things from there packs they carried every time they went out  in the mountains and never needed until that moment. Applying the skills they had learned for years and never needed is what got them down with some badly injured limbs and one hell of a story to tell.

Sometimes from start to finish we don’t always have the best in-betweens but if properly prepared, we finish Getting up and down the Mountain safely.

2. Protect and Respect Nature

There is a hike out of sunrise in Mount Rainer called Fremont fire look out. As a family, all four of us trudged up this trail with about 500 or more of our closest friends. Nathan was 5 at the time and very clear about where the trail is and what to do and what not to do. After spending about an hour on the top we headed down.

We ran in to a ranger who spoke with Nathan at great length about trail etiquette. Not because he was doing any thing wrong but because he knew so much about the subject. He gave Nathan a badge that said something about protecting nature. It was his “trail badge” to set right any one whom he saw was making a wrong choice. Sure enough about 5 mins later there was someone walking off trail and he set them straight. He informed them that they needed to protect nature and that it was important so that other little kids after him could have a chance to see the flowers and forest.

Guilt trip over and we went about our day. From that day on he has been the nature protector, badge and all. He has learned about tacked and what true leadership is as a result of taking ownership of his badge to Protect and respect nature.

In order to be sure that mountains stay alive and well his purpose is to be sure he leaves things better then when he found them and that means “Protect and respect nature”

IMG_2845(Burrows Loop, Mount Rainer National Park)

3. Always be Prepared

The 10 essentials list. It’s a list of 10 things to ALWAYS bring when you head in to the outdoors. Countless times we have watched people put them selves in harms way because they neglect to bring the essentials.

Classic Ten Essentials

  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp/flashlight
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Fire starter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food

People always think its not going to happen to them, until it does. Thankfully we haven’t had more then bumps and scraps with the kids, however for Abram and I we have need items from the list more then a few times to make it back safely. One story comes to mind before we had kids. Abram and I had been out on a 4 day backpacking trip east of Seattle. We had taken a short day hike out of camp and on the way down Abram slipped on some rocks and dislocated his shoulder. We were at least 12 miles and 6500 feet of elevation away from our car and it was 2 in the afternoon.

Abram go out his first aid kit and pulled out his sling bandage. He had carried that sling for at least 12 years every hiking trip he had ever been on and never needed it until that moment but it was the only thing that enabled him to walk out. These items are not for the 100 times you don’t need them they are for the one time you do. And it may not even be for your self. Many times Abram or I have had to use everything in our packs to be able to get out of the trail safely either for our selves or something we walk up on the trail.

In the wilderness or in life we never receive warning that these things we are prepared for are going to happen, they just do. Unless of course it comes in the form of a 600LB grizzly bear, then at least you have a 30 second heads up that things are about to get really different and to just brace for impact. None the less, Always be Prepared because one day you may not know you need what you have, until its right in front of you.

4. Find God

This one is kind of self-explanatory. It’s hard to deny the presence of a higher power when you stand on top of the places we have stood and the silence is deafening. Spiritual experiences are things that are common for me in the woods.

Reminds me of a quote by John Muir:

“Id rather be in the Mountains thinking of God

then in church thinking of Mountains.”

Walking among the trees through deep valleys or high peaks has been places that produce healing and perspective. Many times I have left feeling better then when I came, not because I made my destination or because I saw something out of the ordinary but simply because I cleared the cob webs out of my brain and the wild caged animal inside was quiet once again.

Take for instance the time Abram hiked up to a place called “Hidden Lake” in Glacier National Park. He didn’t go there on crutches because he wanted to see the destination. He went up that 3 miles boardwalk on crutches because he was crazy inside and a piece of him was dying and the wilderness called his name. For me I have vertigo and big open slopes are something that my brain hates very much and I almost pass out often but I figured out ways to go, not because I like dry-heaving on the side of mountains or because I enjoy feeling dizzy, but because that is where I find God. The Doctors say “people who have what you have don’t do what you do” to which I reply “well Doc I guess I will be sick a little bit because this is what I love” most of them are hikers so they get it. I usually am given some kind of reminder talk about don’t put your team in jeopardy and I usually agree.

What ever the destination a high peak, lake shore or just a walk under the canopy of the trees Finding God is about finding something bigger then one self to know we are not alone out here in what ever wilderness we choose.

5. Have Fun!

When hiking with kids its really easy to get disturbed by the whining, crying, sniveling and declarations of defeat and that’s just the first mile! So as parents we had to get creative on how to get them to move without fully realizing what was happening.

GAMES! Peanut M&Ms are dino eggs on the trail, hide and seek if we aren’t in grizzly country, guessing who lives where we are going, the bump game where the kids try to bump us off the trail and so many more. Its been an ebb and flow of learning how to not get so focused on getting somewhere at a certain rate that the destination comes at the cost of fun.

Finding ways to have fun has been born from many mistakes we have made. Realizing that hiking isn’t always about destination, it’s the journey along the way that makes the destination worth it. Having fun is what fuels a 4 and a 7 year old to walk 10 miles and not realize it. There is nothing more motivating then hearing the giggles and laughter that happens when the boy’s will hide and try to jump out a scare us, they are getting better at it so sometimes the fright is genuine which makes them want to do it more, however what they don’t know is they are running for a ¼ mile at a time to hide in front of us which means they have no idea that they are covering ground faster then some adults. It’s a win-win, which again is always the goal for us.

So of course Have Fun is apart of the Code, after all if it wasn’t fun then what’s the dang point any way?

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(Lamar River Canyon, Yellowstone National Park)

The Code, its vital for this family to operate by in life and on the trail. Its built from life’s journeys of successes and failure, hardship and abundance. It was built when we weren’t even looking. But what happens when failure is the end result? Where despite everything, you still don’t make it?

Watch out for part 3 where success is all about failure.

Part one: Preparing the way, a young mans journey of awakening in the wild…. awakens another.

 

 

It was winter time in Yosemite National Park. Our Christmas vacation that year was to head south. A winter storm hit and dropped several inches of snow in the valley. The trail was covered in ice and snow so in order to not trip each other we split up. Nathan and his dad were ahead of his brother and I. Nathan looked at his dad and said, “I want to climb mount Rainer Dad.” Shocked, his dad figured it was much like that time he wanted to ride a rocket into space. He listened with amusement however later in our trip, on a curvy road in central California his dad and I were talking stories of his times of climbing Mount Rainer and how he wanted to climb the mountain again in 2017. Our son, who is 7 brought the climb back up in conversation.

 

He was admit, I WANT TO GO TO THE TOP DAD!

 

Mount Rainer is not just any mountain; it’s 14,411 feet high! It’s one people train on to climb Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. The conditions can change so fast that it can be sunny and beautiful one hour and socked in cloudy with massive winds in the next. There are towers of ice hundred’s of feet tall.  That is a huge tower of ice! There are often ladders that you must walk to cross crevasses that you can't see the bottom of. As his father he knew that he just didn’t have the reasoning to navigate that kind of terrain at 7 years old. So he compromised, because isn’t that what parenting is all about, finding ways to say yes?

 

He agreed to take him half way to the top.

 

Camp Muir is an 9 Mile round trip, 4640 of elevation gain and most of it is on snow. It sits at the 10,188-foot mark on the side of this massive volcano. Its one of the base camps to summit the mountain. But it’s a solid benchmark, its half way to the top. We all agreed that this would be a man quest. He requested his two uncles be apart of his journey. His little brother and I were allowed to join him on some of his training missions but not on actual summit day.

 

His dad and I talked, schemed, investigated to be sure this was something he really wanted to do and decided this was more then just a hike. It represented something more then that. It was a boys coming of age journey. It was a measure of a man. It was a trek on a path of hard work, tenacity and grit. To find out if he had what it takes. And it would take all of us to support him in finding out.

 

As any climber, backpacker, hiker knows it takes a massive amount of experience and preparation for quests of this magnitude. Not because Camp Muir is so hard, or because its so dangerous but because to a boy, half way to the top is something worth investing the time in to! In order to know the significance of this quest, its important to start at the beginning of the story.

 

This is the story that started years before our son was born. Before his dad and I even knew each other’s name. It began on a summer day at Glacier Basin in Mount Rainer National park.

It was an average season. A young man hit the trail that day, steps to begin his own coming of age journey. On a trail, not knowing where it went, how long it was or if he could even do it, he began to walk. He stopped a man a mile in or so and asked the question most newbies to hiking ask “where does this go and how far is it?” as if he put on his “I have no idea what I’m doing” sign the man replied kindly, “well you can take this trail all the way to the top”. He pushed on with far to heavy of pack, perhaps we would have chuckled at his ill preparedness if we had seen him on the trail today. This young man had been looking for something in side to settle his soul and not even knowing what he was looking for.

 

He emerged from the trees both figuratively and actually to see what was the most beautiful, mind blowing expanse of ice and rock ever! He saw the mountain. From this vantage you can see the way to the top. With his blood pumping and his heart racing and all the excitement a young man can muster he saw what that man told him about. The stranger on the trail could have ignored him, blown him off or even mislead him to believing the trail wasn’t worth walking. Yet he didn’t, he planted a seed that day that would begin to sprout in the high alpine meadow, where the mountain reached the sky. Where the ice crumbles and roars down the glaciers. Where the pikas run and scurry and the marmots whistle.

A place where as John Muir said

“in every walk with nature

one receives far more then he seeks”

 

He went home that day and bought a map. He studied. Explored. Threw caned food in a old backpack with no hip belt, no weight adjustments, just two strips of nylon and a zipper compartment and he began to fill the life experience he would need to walk along side his son one day.

 

The words, “all the way to the top” had taken that young man to some pretty high parts of the Pacific North west. That young man joined mountain climbing clubs, tracked countless miles of trail. He acquired all the gear he needed to climb what ever suited him. Even to the side of Denali, the highest mountain in North America, a staggering 20,310 feet high. Only to be turned around by illness and bad weather. Those words took him to the tops of peaks for years and years and years. They carried him through injury, heartbreak, life and death, pain and triumph. “All the way to top” was only a few short words that meant much more.

 

The words again from John Muir never rang so true for this young man from that day until this,

“I go to woods

to loose my mind,

and find my soul”

 

That young man, Nathans father Abram had no idea that his path through the forest was going to some day be a set of foot steps his own son would want to follow. No idea that the tracks he would leave behind would set inspiration in the mind of a son he had no idea was awaiting him at the trail head of fatherhood. All he knew was it was a path worth following, destination unknown, for the journey was the entire destination needed for him. Abrams paths lead him right up to the moment sitting in a car driving in central California breathing life in to a dream that will perhaps bring another man to the tops of mountains, where those summits touch the sky.

At the time he had no idea that he would be in the same shoes as that man, only to speak similar words to his own son,

“I will take you all the way to the top some day son, but for now, we go half way, for after all you have training to do and experiences to be had first.”

Nathan's final training hike, observation rock.

 

A desire, A pledge, A dream come true

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The setting could not be more perfect… The sun on my face, Pacific Ocean in front of me, the smell of a distant camp fire and my husband an two boys are searching for sea creatures in tide pools screaming with delight that they found yet another crab. The sound of joy never gets old. As I sit here, 15 years sober, I am reminded that I never wanted a life like this. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t is because I never believed it would come true. Dream safely is what I always thought, don’t get your hopes up because you could be let down, dream small, dream manageable, dream attainable and if it doesn’t come true, no one will notice the failure because they were not big enough to matter.

The moment came when the whispering started. It was 6 and a half years ago in the middle of the night, Nathan was born and so was a dream. A dream that felt so out of range that I couldn’t even talk about it. But I sat there in the quiet looking at this tiny human and a dream of walking the trails with my family, getting lost in the back country for days at a time…surviving with only what we can carry on our backs…witnessing the beauty of Gods creation…a dream was born in the dark of night. As with most dreams they need confirmation. Mine came in Glacier National Park, Nathan was only about two years old or so when I sat on the side of the trail, while feeding him, a family walked by. Backpacks for all of them and smiles, cheerfully remembering when they used to be us and it was confirmed, I wanted to be them.

As with most dreams I had preparation to do. The husband and I had to convert all our back country gear to ultra light weight gear. My husband and I had some immanence lessons in patience and tolerance to learn through many…and I mean MANY opportunities of correcting our poor behavior. Which is a whole other blog post. And I would probably argue that the most important preparation would be to listen to still quiet whispers from the dream creator Him self.

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Listening to the whisper of God is challenging for me because often the voice of the critic is louder. It takes practice and I am not even close to perfect at it, however I must of done something correct because I’m sitting here 3 miles away from civilization with nothing but the stuff my husband and I carried on our backs. I sit here and think about the intimate process with God and I have walked through to get here. Waves of pain and set back rise away like the tide of the Pacific and suddenly I become a little more free along the way. I have a little bit more willingness to go further. I become a little more vulnerable. And suddenly my dream gets a little bigger. And now it has a title. To backpack with my family in the woods for days. To raise men on rugged trails. To live a life out loud that demonstrates the power and healing of God. And the dream gets fanned and fed. And the rush of accomplishment floods in.

As a Christ centered wife and mother the image of my self used to look very small and insignificant. Today my call looks bigger. It looks riskier. A bit more daring and scandalous. Going out and having an adventure to live. One with real risk like being mauled by a bear (a scenario I play through all the time) or getting lost in the woods. When we are out in the back country we rely on each other to survive. To give shelter and food. To give first aid if something is broken. I have a part deep inside my heart that craves connection and there is no deeper connection then knowing if we don’t work together we don’t eat or stay warm at night or stay safe from giant MOM eating bears.

My call today is saying to my boys

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“You have an adventure to live and by my example of living mine you will know how to live yours. By my choice to silence the critics you will learn how to silence yours. I will show you how to push through fear. I will show you what not giving up looks like. I will live out a life that listens to a call and the dreams given by God. I will show you what pushing through set back looks like. I will show up after I fail over and over because you can’t know how to succeed unless you fail, you can’t have one with out the other. We as a family, a true connected family, knit together by the Creator, we will show others how to do the same. We will pass people on the trail, in the woods and in life, and inspire them to believe that the impossible is possible. That if we can do it, so can they. By our living as a godly family will teach you that surrendering to the call of God, that following the lead of God will take us through the valleys and over the mountains. We are playing the background and the dream of God flows through our family like a river through the forest”

In each of us is a spirit that connects us to the Higher power. In our hearts, I believe that we have a place deep inside that God speaks.  A place that is filled with the pleasure of God and the dreams He gives us. When I am on the trail with my family, I feel the pleasure of God. This is what I believe God wants for me. I feel the ever connection of a true sense of Joy, of Happiness and of Freedom. Trusting the process. Knowing that every painful experience is for my ultimate good.

I’m answering my call and adventure awaits…

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Grace for the developmental years of childhood insanity and blessing.

 I was sharing with some friends the other day about how much I ask my kids to change in the first 5 years of there lives and it occurred to me to offer a little more grace to them and the ones like them when i realized how much I really do ask of them.

Newborn: they start out these helpless little blobs of joy and smelly things and have parents that are, according to the movies and TV shows, supposed to be happy about this ALL the time. I don’t know about you but when both my sons were all happy and giggles at 2 am I was not laughing, in fact I was crying most of the time because unlike them who get to sleep most of the day, I was awake freaking out because they would stop breathing every now and then and my solution was to check every few minuets because apparently my looking would some how enable them to continue sucking in the very air that keeps them breathing. 

Oh the pressure begins. The conversation would go something like this:

“Oh I know you were just born and all and I know some where in your divinely wired brain you are supposed to know how to eat and swallow so lets get to it because this Dr or mid wife is kind of starting to piss me off! Oh there you go eat eat eat away. Ya my little one did it.”

Then you come home to relentless questions from the well meaning people: Is the baby sleeping well? What kind of question is that! They just got the eating thing down I’ve been home for 10 minuets, the kid might as well feel like they got sent to a whole other world. They were in water that was warm and cozy. Now they are in air that’s freezing most of the time. Or another question I love, are you sleeping well? To which after I get done lying right through my teeth because the mail lady does not need to see my cry for 30 minuets at a time because I just cant seem to remember where my EVERYTHING went. “Yes im sleeping well thank you. Love my little one.”

First Year: the Dr’s appointments! For the first year, are they holding there head? Tummy time! Tummy time! Tummy time! Do they recognize you when you come in to the room? Are they eating by them selves yet? Making sounds? Picking things up? Are they crawling? Walking? Cruising the furniture? Its at this point my eyes glaze over because I starting thinking about my dog cruising the couch for snacks in the cushions and I remember her eating my bagel breakfast sandwich on the first day that everyone slept all at the same time. That my friends, is grounds for re-homing! but then I would cry again so never mind. The Dr. notices my glazed over look and asks the last question again, hows baby sleeping? To which I reply, “I think he decided sleep is for when hes old”

Year 2: They are walking, talking in a code only parents can decipher, opinionated and in to everything. They cant decide if they want to eat or just throw there food on the floor and then scream because there noodles were eaten by the dog and some how its our fault. Oh and they are besides them selves that I wont let them whack me with the tonka truck one more time.

Year 3: They are getting this whole eating with out throwing it at the parents thing down really well, sleeping has settled down a little bit, and now the real pressure comes. Do you feel pee pee? Poo poo? Do you need to go? Did you go? Where is it if you did? (guilty look on the dogs face, and I think, less to clean up) Then the moment in the far back corner of Costco, the first time I brave the no diaper, he just peed in the parking lot so we should be good. Second baby just ate so we are good. And its as if while im inspecting the giant batch of grapes that im about to buy and the boys come together, “are you ready to see how fast she can push this over loaded cart the quarter mile to the bathroom? Ready go! Mommy I have to pee!!!!!!!” Loudly so everyone around can hear. I check my list, I cant just abandon this cart I have the best batch of grapes. And we are off, we make it, and out comes a few drops. In my mind I’m like “REALLY? I almost ran some people over to get here”. But out of my mouth comes “YAAAA go pee pee on the potty!” IMG_3085

Year 4: More questions, is he writing, reading? Can he count? Alphabet? Potty trained? Jump up and down? I think from the counter or off the floor? Does bouncing count? Is he eating well? How is he with other kids? Can he write a code that programs a rocket to launch? They throw that one in just so they know I’m paying attention now, remember the dog?


After thinking about all this stuff I ask my kids to do I realize I really need to give them extra grace. When hes hanging upside down off the grocery cart or yelling so loud that I need ear plugs to hear because when parenting is a 24/7 deal I will have a chance to “try again” in 5 minuets. I expect my kids to behave in ways that really in the reality of things doesn’t make sense. In honesty when I take an honest look at my thinking, I want him to be a robot and then I realize: Hes 4 or hes 14 months depending on which one I’m watching lick the window. Being a kid is such a short lived thing, offer the guy some grace, truly how much have I been asked to grow in 4 years of life? Surely not as much as I’m asking of them. Please have grace for us if you see my son walk right in front of your grocery cart in the store or runs in circles for no apparent reason at all. Chances are its the lesser of two situations like walk freely in the store or go bowling in the juice aisle and see how many bottles he can drop to the floor before hes caught.

Some days I just look at the and say out loud, not what I’m thinking of course, but remind my self “your acting your age, your supposed to …” They arn’t robots. Thank God for the gift of growth not only in them but my self as well. Extra grace required for all parties involved. I try to tickle him instead of grab his hand for the 100th time because laughter releases so much more tension in him and me. Often that is all that is needed, a little bit of purposeful connection.