Part 4: Mission Accomplished

Through much of this journey there is a behind the scenes aspect that I have had yet to mention. Nathan has an invisible gift. Nathan has Sensory Processing Disorder. I share this not as a hinderance but as an offer of hope to families who have kids with high needs, any thing is possible. Nathan has demonstrated again and again the tenacity and grit it takes to push through the odds.

 

S.P.D. is a part of the brain that processes sensory input ie: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. For sensory kids the signs show up in a variety of ways, for Nathan his shows up today mostly in the auditory processing part of his brain and he can become easily overwhelmed, big crowds are very hard for him to stay in his body and bright flashing lights are really challenging for him to stay focused. Among other things. Think a Jack-In-The box character, only the Jack-In-The box character has confetti that pops out, with silly string, strobe lights and its head expands to twice the size of the box that becomes almost impossible to put back in once its pops. That is Nathans brain when he has a sensory melt down.

 

Often a dark quiet room for “alone time” or some play time out side where Nathan has complete control over his environment is what helps him be able to bring his brain back to center or is able to “put Jack back in the box”. Depending on the day the triggers vary from just about anything one day to the next. The book “The Out of Sync Child” by Carol Stock Kranowitz is a really informative book on sensory and how it works.

 

Over the years with the help of occupational therapy and a stout commitment to accept that there are things that work for our family and things that don’t, through much trial and error on our part I might add, we have found our way.  It’s not all melt downs and life changes however it also means a lot of really amazing things like his attention to detail, given the proper amount of time he can build some elaborate legos or block buildings. He has a passion for reading. He also has a very strong ability to feel deeply for something or someone. He is absolutely a loyal and faithful friend.

We travel, we go to places, we go to movies, we go to the mountains. We challenge him on many levels because that’s life after all and S.P.D. isn’t going to stop us from living an adventure filled life. Everyone finds what works for them and that’s the most important part. For us we have found joy in the mountains and on adventures.

 

However there is one aspect to S.P.D. that can make life very challenging when failure is a part of the story its what they call “hyper-focused” and its quite hard to over come. It can be a task uncompleted, it could be the tick of road noise in the car is to loud or an idea he didn’t feel he could fully express. It becomes challenging to help him process through and move on because that specific experience can end up as a broken record in his brain. Sometimes it has resulted in me or Abram carrying him out of places and a two hour melt down about the blanket that he decided was a must have.

Then there is times where he will have his time to process his feelings and its done, never to mention it again. It’s certainly not all or nothing or a one size fits all. We just never know which time is going to be, let go and move on or will it be held on to like a set of cat claws.

 

So for us when it came to training for his dream and not making it to the top of Observation Rock, there was a lot of anxiety about which direction he would go when we tried for Muir. He was quiet upset about not making it. There was much conversation about just because one experience had one out come, doesn’t mean the next one will be the same.

So we acted as if. Abram and I also have to work on ourselves. To remind our selves that no matter the out come we show up any way and see what happens.

 

So the packs are packed, the food is ready and the alarm beeps at 3 AM. We roll out of bed and off we go. Nathan is giddy which is helpful because Abram and I slept about 3 to 4 hours the night before summit day and Nathans energy is contagious. So far the only “hyper-focused” is his push for the top.

 

We hit the trail with the clap of thunder off in the distance. We knew the chance of thunder showers loomed in the morning so with a watchful eye on the sky we pushed on. We were just short Pebble Creek and a huge clap of thunder roared over head and then echoed off the mountain, it was hands down the coolest sound I have ever heard. One of natures surprises though, she wasn’t going to make the push for the top an easy one for us. Lighting struck a couple ridges over so we dropped our trekking polls about 15 feet away, found a place to spread out to wait for the thunder storm to pass.

Nathan was worried and stuck on the fact that we could die. He was right. Lighting in the mountains is something to be respected for sure. Thankfully this was not our first time being in the mountains in the weather and I reminded him that he survived a thunder storm in Glacier National Park a few years back which had done the trick to calm him down. Drawing on past experiences of success helps us all doesn’t it? Getting up and down the mountain safely is our primary job. No matter how bad we want to victory, safety is the first rule.

 

No sooner did the storm pass did the snow field start. The long, slow, push for Camp Muir began. There was a cluster of folks we walked with, most of which would pass on one liners of encouragement to Nathan that he seemed to gobble up. Abram continued giving him encouragement and reminding him that he’s strong enough, that he has what it takes. Hearing a father’s voice that reinforces the truth has such power for a kid. I could see the change in Nathans face every time he would hear Abram say in about 100 different ways “you have what it takes”.

 

Nathan learned that there was a shelter at the top. He wanted to see it. He marched up, faster then us at times. The sky opened up and he could see the crevasses and glaciers on the mountain. It blew his mind how big they were and how blue they were. He kept pushing to see more and more of the mountain. He just couldn’t believe that such large quantities of ice could exist! After a few breaks, one step at a time.

We arrived at Camp Muir.

 

I imagine it’s the same feeling a parent feels when there child wins a football championship or a baseball championship or seeing your child graduate from school. Reflecting on all the steps it took to get to that moment in time. Something only experience can help someone to know the amount of emotion that washes over you.

 

Nothing prepared me for that moment. I sat and looked at my boy. All the life experiences that led to this moment and it was his moment, not mine or Abrams. He made it. He sat and ate cookies. He was so proud. 7 years old, S.P.D. in his back packet and he made it. He pushed through fear of not having what it takes. He pushed through his fear of the thunder. He was half way up the mountain on his own two feet. He was so tired and overwhelmed he almost threw up right there on the platform where every one sits.

 

Abram and I sat together and took in the moment. A sense of relief and joy came over both of us. A sounds of silence loomed in the air. We both know what it took for us to get here. We both also knew that this wasn’t our moment. This moment was Nathans!

 

With the sound of rock and ice falling off the Nisqually head wall we started our long walk down. The only thing pushing Nathan to do the last half of the trip is glissading. Its one of the nice things about a huge snowfield, you can slide down on your bottom!

 

A quick lesson on how to go down safely and a few boundaries gone over, he learned how to glissade.  Shoot after shoot. He made his way down. Sometimes facing frontwards, sometimes facing backwards, sometimes sideways.  Sometimes he needed to skip one to be reminded that safety was the way to ensure the fun continues. But one thing was present at all times a laser focus and smile from ear to ear. The people walking by had smiles too. We had the biggest ones of course. Abram and I watched our boy grow a little more into to a man that day.

 

A younger gentlemen was coming down behind us and was beyond impressed by seeing a 7 year old at Camp Muir to which his reply was “after seeing him up there it made me really question some decisions I have been making in my life”. Nathan offered inspiration to others by simply doing what he loves.

 

No one will ever know for sure the amount of grit and perseverance it took for him to get him self “Half Way To The Top” but him and him alone. As we made the long, tireless trek down to our car. Feet hurting. Legs worn out and ready fall off Nathan was passing on encouraging one liners to tiered hikers along the trail, you have to give it away to keep it after all.

 

A sense of amazement hung in the air during the car ride home. He made it. HE DID IT! MISSION COMPLETE! Per usual, there was nothing to worry about. He found his way. Against the odds, he made it Half way up Mount Rainer!

With a smile on his face and a look of accomplishment beyond recall, he says from the backseat

“I did it”

A few days had passed. Nathan was ready to blow up his volcano. Nathan sprayed lava every where out the top complete with sound effects and cheers.

Abram sat down with Nathan to talk about his dream. He reminded him that this is not the end of the path. That you making the summit isn’t the end of dreaming. I listened to him share with Nathan the wisdom of not settling and continuing to strive for dreams no matter how big or small.

Life is about the journey not a destination. So Abram left Nathan with one question

What’s next?

For in the words of John Muir

“Between every two pines

Is a doorway in to another world”

This is just the beginning of many many adventures to come…

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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.

IMG_1908

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?

IMG_2151

(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.

 

Connection unites us all

The mighty Redwoods stand tall and powerful. What most people don’t know is that they have a very small root system. The branch canopy of the tree is drastically smaller in  relation to the height of the tree. Some would go so far to say its roots are not big enough to hold its self up. Standing alone, yes it would probably topple over at the first big wind storm it encounters because the tree is incredibly top heavy. So then how can these trees be old enough to live since Christ walked the earth? A saying I have heard a 1000 times seem fitting, “we can do together what we can not do alone.” See the trees work together to hold each other up.  These trees are able to live the length of 2000+ years because they rely on each other to survive. The root system of these massive trees is shallow and not very big and the tree roots over lap each other to form a mat of interwoven support for one another. Holding each other up. Instinctually relying on the tree next to it to stay standing. They don’t ask for permission. They lean into each other because they know that is what they were created to do. 
This is how humanity was intended to survive. We were created to lay roots next to each other for our own bond and survival.
As I walk through a forest of these amazing Giants I am reminded that sometimes in nature I see the reminders of what creation could look like based on God instinct with out the influence of the human fear. I looked up and I see a canopy of 5 or 6 trees over lapping each other. What struck me was that what i was looking up at was also under my feet. A system of support and a bond for survival. 
Through the highs and lows of this journey of mine I have over lapped my self with others in order to stay standing. Years of practice to stay connected and in touch has enabled me to build a system of support in order to survive the storms of a harsh times in life. I find connection to God in the woods the most. I have since I was little. Always left in awe at the incredible vastness of my Creator. My heart races to think of all the things I have yet to learn from this amazing school yard of mine.
Today as I reflect on the moment standing underneath such power, strength, protection, solid ground… I thank God for the people who are in my circle of support, the people who are praying and the people who have no idea what is happening… they treat me as just another face in the crowd. 

I see a forest of beating hearts and over lapping connections. So now more then ever I look to my God who shows up through people and say ” Thank you for places like this in my life even though its not my plan, for the people in my life and to think I could have missed it all. Thanks for not letting me.” I rest today in the presence of a mighty God whom i do not understand and yet He is my Refuge….. my Rock… my Strong Tower….. my Deliverer.

Great events have come to pass….

A gap in the human go where the divine slips in. That moment. When I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that things are being set in motion are not by my doing. More times then I can count in the last 2 months I have heard “this never happens.” To many things are happening for it to not be the everlasting grace of God. Please don’t think that for one second I am saying that because I get this, that or the other and you don’t that some how God isn’t extending grace to you. We don’t know the end of your story yet and this isn’t the end of mine either.

Many times in the last 7 years I have been bracing, hiding, begging for the pain and turmoil to stop. Thinking that some how I knew better then God that I knew what was good for me and what wasn’t. Not to sound like I’m blaming God. He was the one that carried much of the way. Life happens. Loving God and being sober does not mean life stops happening and it’s always happy and good. What it does mean is that I have been given the tools to praise God when the storms come and praise God when the storms clear. My husband and I sign papers tomorrow for our home. The home our boys will remember. The home they will bring there sweet hearts to. A fire place to take prom pictures in front of. A home my husband and I can watch our boys grow into men. My heart is filled with gratitude because this wasn’t supposed to happen for us now. We are supposed to carry a scar of a lost home. A scar of the pain of loosening our daughter and never seeing any blessings from that loss. She blesses us still today.

Today these scars have faded. I have a much deeper depth in my soul today because of the pain I have walked through and survived. I owe a debt to the friends of bill w. that I will never be able to repay. I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.

“Take away my difficulties. That victory over them may bear witness to those I may help of your power, your love and your way of life,” step 3 prayer BB pg 63.

God graced me with the ability to walk through my difficulties not to benefit me. But to benefit you. To demonstrate his glory and love for his children. Not my ego. Although I take credit from time to time and end up falling on my face, usually in front of a lot of people.

Today I am believing that Gods can open doors that no man can shut and he shuts door that no man can open. Some where in revelations

If he has brought us this far then he’s not going to leave my family and I now.

  

I royally suck at having faith,  apparently. 

Over the years I have discovered that my prayers have changed. Maybe because I’m more trusting of God or maybe because I have seen enough loss in every way that I get that I have no idea what is going to happen. At the end of most prayers lately it ends with “I’ll praise You if we win and I’ll praise You if we loose”. I know full well that I want to win, it’s in my DNA to win. Haha however I know that loss is just as important. The drive to be sure that everything is going to happen the way I want is exhausting. 

I was reminded last night of the simplest of prayers. Get up in the morning and say “whatever” and when I go to bed at night I say “enough” basically taking all of my input out and getting out of Gods way. Because any input I give is going to be based on my immature idea of God. 

When I closed my eyes to meditate this morning (which I have not done in some time and I pretty much sucked at it, but it’s in the effort right?) I felt completely out of control. I chuckled a little because somehow I believe that if my eyes are open I will know what’s coming so I can be tense with anticipation. How does that even makes sense? What if I made efforts to stay relaxed if the hits come? Rubber flexes more then concrete. That is my goal. And I suck at it. I suppose that means that I have a lot of room to improve. 

Basicly I am learning that yes, God I trust you when my eyes are open and I can see what is coming, but not when my eyes are closed. I suppose trust is when my eyes are open and faith is when my eyes are closed. 

A new day dawns and I have a chance to trust and have faith that God simply is and He cares enough about me that if he had a fridge in heaven my picture would be on it. 

 

This amateur runner needed a village to find my way.

Being a mom of two little rascals having an inspirational thought is challenging and down right impossible. Every now and then God speaks louder then the short ones in my home are yelling. As I’m reading about the importance of slogans in the program from the Grapevine (AA’s meeting in print) I hear loud and clear that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to running. I know how to hike. Took a lot of patience and explaining from my husband mostly but I got it and now love it.

So when I am thinking about running I realize the first place to start is shoes. Humbled to have to ask someone who appears to know more about it then me I tapped in to a friend. Got clear direction, go to the experts. So I went to the shoe store and talked to a young lady who im sure was at least 10 years younger then me. Her head was shaved and I’m 100% positive she has never had a baby. However I have been taught to “look for similarities and not the differences.”

Thus was the begining of our short friendship. She knew WAY! more then me about running. I was glad to listen to her feed back and input. She did have some questions for me though.

What kind of runner am I? she asked, I’m the kind that goes faster then when I’m walking.

Do you have a heavy healed stride? If you mean does my feet touch the ground and then leave it? Then yes.

Are you a distance runner? If by distance you mean when my coaching app says run and I run and then says stop then yeah I’m a distance runner.

As it came time to make a choice for shoes I picked the ones that make me feel like an 80 year old man. But they are so comfortable. My husband has reassured me they do not look like old man shoes.

So what do i take from all this? Ask the question, tap in to the resource of people who appear to know more then you do and look for the similarities and not the differences. My new friend at the shoe store was helpful and had a lot of guidance. Because I was raised in the program to listen I did. I wish I would have taken her picture so I can show you just how different we are from each other and yet how many similarities we have.

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I wore my new shoes around the house. I took a picture of them. I feel proud. This my friends is what they call an estimable act. If I want something different I need to do something different.

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Goodbye says it all.

I have seen first hand and experienced it in my own life. People in recovery have an incredible attachment to there pets. Maybe its because we spend most of our lives only having the ability to care for an animal because people are to complicated. Animals teach us about unconditional love. Unconditional forgiveness. Living in the moment is something they do best. They have a relentless ability to be joyful. I have sat in meetings and cried listening to stories. Today I have one of my own.

I was 16 and the people’s dog down the road had puppies. My brother and I took one. We named her Roxy. I was at the end of my drinking. I spent a lot of time angry and alone. I would come home at night to find her on the back porch. I can not tell you how many nights I spent being kept warm from her, more then I care to imagine.

In February of 2001 I went to treatment. Not really having a relationship with anyone but her naturally she was the only one I cared about. I was very alone. She was the first emotional connection I had that I was truly invested in. In therapy they talk about the importance of closure. Goodbye letters are popular and helpful. Here is mine:

Dear Roxy,

You are the best and sweetest soul I know. I know that because to put up with someone like me at the beginning of your life, you had to be. You were faithful and made it easy to be your owner. You were the first dog I had that I got to make right all my mistakes with animals growing up.

There was never a doubt in my mind that at night when I would stumble in the door you were not going to be there. You slept on my pillow like a person and was a pain in the ass because there was never enough room for me. You kept me company at the end of my drinking. A risky thing to do being how belligerent I was at the time. At a time when I was alone not knowing whether I would wake up or not or could carry on any more and I believe you were the angel sent to add some kind of hope for me at the end.

I went to treatment and all I cared about was how my dog was. Not my parents who just put there only daughter in treatment 30 miles away. Or my friends who didn’t really know what to do with me either. But you were the only thing that I knew what to do with.

After getting sober you were the one that showed me how to give grace. How to push into someone when all they want to do is curled up in a ball and hide from the world you would come to my side, lay on my feet, flip your head backwards and just look at me. And you did that over and over day after day until I finally would start to live in the world again. Patience, tolerance, forgiveness. The things I never knew I wanted you gave with out speaking a word.

At the end of your life I’m not surprised that you made it abundantly clear it was time. You job on earth was done. I choose to believe that you are in heaven today with you pal Nike (a miniature Docksin we used to have) chasing balls, fighting over who gets the bigger bed but finally peaceful and at rest.

Goodbye old friend. Thank you for the time we did share. you helped this drunk find her way back to humanity again in only the way a dog could.

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I thought I knew how this would all play out, I was so wrong!

I never knew that the loss of my baby daughter would give me the strength to endure the loss of my relationship with my brother. I realized the other day that God sent me through that unbelievably hard situation to gain tools for this current painful loss. I have come to believe that each painful experience breeds strength stored in the cells of my very existence to be able to walk through the next thing.

I had no idea that I would ever imagine that the kid I grew up with would be someone I would not be able to drop inside jokes to any more or run random movie quotes by and have an entire conversation based on that movie. However that’s what future predictions and expectations will do for me though. I get completely blindsided by a sudden change in my well laid plans. I realized that today as I was praying in my car.

A frequent occurrence for me is I get met with reality vs fantasy, I get confronted with this idea that I made-up in my head as a kid about what things are going to look like. Usually based on tv shows or movies where everything comes together in the end and everyone loves each other again. Happened for me about having babies, husbands and all kinds of other things. This time it happened with my sibling relationships.

My life was supposed to look like the Norman Rockwell pictures. big family meals. Everyone is there. All smiling.

Never in my mind did I ever think that I would not be in relationship with my siblings. People change over time. Even siblings. They change and move away from what they grew up knowing and so did I. I know today that there is a reason for everything and even though something happens near me it dosen’t mean it has to be my lesson to learn directly.

Do I trust God? This is the question that made me think of something different then my anger. Yes I do. Do I want him to makes sense of my current situation? Hell ya I do! Will he? Maybe not. Sometimes situations happen that cause my boat to rock but its not my storm causing the unsettling waters. There are days when I think about the things I would say to my brother if I saw him. They usually are not nice. That’s OK. The first thought is free everything after that is my responsibility to keep in check. That is grief though. It is messy and unpredictable. I have enough wherewithal to know I would have to make amends for my behavior and if nothing else that has saved me a lot of heart ache.

Life is what ever its going to look like. If I would stay off the results committee I think my brain would be much more relaxed. Unfortunately I have no way of knowing what new concept I need to adjust my thinking on until I’m in the middle of trying to understand why I’m unable to let go of something. That is why they say “everything I have ever let go of has claw marks all over it.”

I’m a work in progress and so are my relationships. God knows what He is doing. If there is nothing else I can take from this experience is that God is the one on the throne, in good times and bad, not me.

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