Thanksgiving

Grenade… How quaint

You know, I just saw a quick cut of a movie called “The Faults in Our Stars” about a young girl with cancer and her life story. (I have avoided it like the plague as I don’t need any more emotional roller coaster rides from hell than I already have, thank-you-very-much)

She explains to someone that she is a “grenade”, and that, my friends is a pretty good descriptor. What she missed is, that she is a faulty grenade, as the pin is pulled the the timer?

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has a mind of its own

Anyone who has had the word “cancer” and their name used in the same sentence understands exactly what I mean. When someone does that to you, suddenly you become a grenade. A faulty one. You may go off, you may not. The pin may get reset, or you may stand there for years, staring at that fucking pin and that damn grenade and wonder, “Exactly when are you going to explode”?

Then the clock starts. You don’t know how much time you  have. Nor does anyone else. But a lot of them step away from you pretty quick or hide behind life avoiding the blast if they can. At least limit the damage they will experience. Tick tick tick.. fucking life’s clock just keeps on going. In the meantime? You stand there staring at the pin trying to figure out exactly why it got pulled and whether or not you can put it back in.

Then the circus begins.. A true three ringed circus, clowns and all. The doctors that are looking at another grenade, working to slow the timer. Nurses poking and jabbing, they too, doing what they know how to do to slow the tick tick tick of that fucking grenade. Then you begin to wonder, what can I do? what can my spouse do? what can anyone do? and in the background of life you hear that god damned timer still ticking.

You research, study, learn things about health and life that you really wish you hadn’t. and not sure exactly what to believe as half the shit on the internet is someone trying to make a dime, and statistics are made up 73% of the time on the spot. The deeper you dig the more confusing it gets. You hope for something, anything to help silence that ticking sound that is scratching at your brain like a splinter in your hand that you can’t get out. It is maddening. And still you hold that fucking grenade and pin…

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Slowly, if you are that lucky, you realize a couple of things. While you are driving yourself mad trying to stop  that fucking ticking sound, you can forget the single most important thing that you should be doing…

Living

Each tick is a moment wasted if you aren’t doing what you truly love. Each tick is something you cannot get back. Time is a commodity that you cannot trade or earn, you get what you get. So for those of you out there reading this? If you think cancer patients are the only folks holding a grenade in their hand waiting for that horrific moment that it decides to go off?

They aren’t the only ones.. You might want to look in your hands and see that each of us have pulled that pin, and time, for all of us is winding down. Cancer patients may have a shorter run of it, they may not. After you read this, you might want to re-examine where you are and what you are doing. If you aren’t doing what you love to do and who you love to do it with?

You might wanna change that before that fricking grenade in your hands goes off.

crater

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Sleepless in Anchorage

Last night Lynda and I decided to have a snuggle night and with my tv (she won’t claim to own one) we decided on “Sleepless in Seattle”. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.. Innocent enough, and Lynda mentioned she had never seen it.

For those of you that have not seen it, the story is about loss and renewal. The story is of a husband who loses his soul mate to some undefined disease. The opening scene is from a graveside service with the boy and the dad standing at the grave site and his dad is trying to explain to his son that there didn’t seem to be any specific reason for his wife dying, that it was simply life being random in its selection of those it takes. and even more so: “If we start asking why, we’ll go crazy”.. I quit asking why her very, very quickly. Anger is an emotion that can spin out of control.

While Lynda and I lie on the couch, the year 2001 came roaring back in vivid color. My emotions, while under some sense of control, was given the reminder of what it means to lose a soul-mate. Something, even as I write can cause my eyes to leak. The movie went on that since his loss, “Sam” the person that Tom Hanks plays, cannot sleep. I remember that well. At the very best,  I could catch 1/2 hour cat naps once or twice during the day. And for those that know my penchant for sleeping at the drop of a hat, that is a big statement.

At that point in time, as far as I was concerned, my married days were over.  Sure, I would date, but the idea of finding another soul mate in this life time was zero. I had my time in the sunshine, Connie was my girl and she was gone, much like Sam’s in the movie. Eventually I became functional, but the words that Tom Hanks uttered hit home harder than I expected.. he was quoting me… “Wake up, take a breath, remember to breathe out, take another step”.. repeat. and remember to breathe in.. and take another step.

It was if “Sam” and I had walked in the same shoes down the same dark trail. Scary indeed. Lynda checked in with me a couple of times, but I was determined to watch the movie through. I can remember doing much like the character, lying on a couch talking to Connie as if she were standing right there. that was my new normal.

At some point in the movie there was a part where Sam was about to get mixed up with the wrong person, and his son fixed it for him. I can remember coming dangerously close to the same thing. Someone I was dating was looking for much more than I was willing to give. But in the end that ended well.

As the movie progressed it told of “fate”. of “knowing” when you have met someone that you have no doubt you will love for the rest of your life. That you have “found home” even knowing you had never seen it before, that this was where you were meant to be.

To quote Sam: “I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic”

When Lynda and I reconnected, I was nervous.. scared. Worried that again, I was making a mistake in reaching out to someone, but the funny part? I knew it deep in my bones that Lynda was the only one on the planet that had a chance of pulling me out of the world I had grown into.

When we met at the airport, that world began to melt away, the darkness, the loss, the hurt suddenly began to dissipate, evaporate. The passion was there, but there was something else. Like with Connie, when I heard her laugh at that restaraunt, I knew something was about to happen, and when I laid eyes on her, I knew.. I knew in my heart, that she was going to be my wife.

Lynda and I left airport terminal and went out to my truck. We hopped in and I started the engine. I reached over and took Lynda’s hand and the world stopped. I mean it stopped cold. That touch, that hand hold, took both our breaths away. At that point, I realized two things.

One.

I had judged every hand I had ever held based on that very same hand that I held from my high school days. With no doubt, every girl I dated, every female I had ever held hands with, that hand, Lynda’s hand, was what I judged every woman on, for better or worse. It was one of the most wonderful epiphanies I have ever had

Two

I had just become the luckiest guy in the universe. I had found what I deemed impossible, a second soul mate. I mean that. When you meet someone, that one person, you know it. There is, and was, no doubt, that Lynda and I would spend the rest of our days together, however long those days would be.  I describe it as the world suddenly “clicking” into place and the hands of fate had come full circle.

The movie helped me to remember that sometimes, when you lose something special, that in that moment, the universe is by far the most cruel thing there is. And in the next moment, when you find yourself staring at a magical place in time, that you use that memory to reach out instead of hide.. take that leap of faith and see what may be.

There is magic in this world, just remember to keep your eyes open to it. Sometimes it is something as easy as an email to someone you haven’t seen in 22 years.

May your new year be just that, a new year, full of excitement, adventure, fun, and love. Keep those that you care about close to you, never let them doubt how you feel, and live with a sense of urgency… Live the life that you dream of, and keep your eyes open.. The universe is stranger than fiction.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Christmas that shouldn’t be

I look at that title of this post. and I re-read it again. It has been four years since Lynda and I were hit with the cold hard fact that her cancer had spread. and without Lynda in the room, I asked Dr. Sinclair the question that would bounce around in my head in more ways than I could ever imagine it would.

How long?

How do you spit that question out? How do you wrap your head around that kind of a question? My tongue was numb, hell, I was numb. I was in probably the deepest state of shock I had ever been in, but also I had known from the first PET scan that Lynda, my second wife was in trouble. Just like I knew Connie , my first wife, was in trouble when the words “pancreatic cancer” rolled out of that surgeons mouth in 2001. I knew that the likelihood of Connie making it for any period of time was nil.

Now, there I sat, with my second wife and now this ugly beast had reared its head in the dark and turned our way. Staring into the eyes of a dragon is a life changing event.

Dr. Sinclair, who I considered to be an excellent oncologist prefaced his statement with “We don’t know”. It could be… and at that point I tuned everything out. As I watched his lips move, I was rocketed back to the days with Connie. Spending days in the hospital bed, cuddled up next to her realizing that time was getting shorter with every passing day. And I was so wrapped up in losing her that I couldn’t figure out how to live… for those last few weeks, it was as if I was sitting around an empty coffin, just a matter of time before I found it filled.

I came back to the conversation finding Dr. Sinclair looking down at the floor, we both realized that this diagnosis was as dire as any that I had ever heard. Lynda and I left the office that day, and went for a walk, trying to talk about what we thought was coming. The options, any ideas? What in the hell do we do now? It was crushing. We talked, we cried, and we sucked it up and determined that we would do everything we could to beat this dragon.

As it progressed I think a light bulb went off in our heads. We are all going to die at some point, the end is never the destination, the journey is. Life is the journey, and it is what you make it. I remember a line from the “Shawshank Redemption”

Get busy living or get busy dying

Damn straight.

Lynda and I have always lived full tilt boogie, ask any of our friends. We don’t take life lightly. We decided to up that a notch, and go for the gusto. The road trip, Belize, getting in touch with old friends, making sure our family knew how we felt about them, then re-confirming all that once again.

Lake Harmony

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erick and Lynda bristlecones

Over two years later, and that dragon that had turned to us in that rough night is now sleeping. It rustles every so often, but does no damage other than remind us that life is uncertain, an ending is forever possible, and at some point, inevitable. But we think we found the secret to life. Live it. Run it as hard as you can, you won’t get a second chance, unless you get lucky like we did. We are in our second chance now. And it is good.

Us in Guatemala

Me and my wife

Me and my wife

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What has cancer done for us? Our sister in law has often asked “How can serve you” (can cer v u). and it has in more ways that I can count. This disease has made me appreciate every day I have with my wife and friends. It has made me a better man. And together, it has made us a much closer couple. Lynda is healthier now than she has ever been. As am I. Mentally we are tough enough to deal with anything that life has to offer, and perhaps a bit more.

Then there is the Christmas time of the year. This was Connie’s favorite time of the year as it is Lynda’s. For me it has always been tough as I get nostalgic remembering the Christmases of my past. The Charlie Brown Christmas tree with Connie. Connie and I decided to cut our own Christmas tree in Alaska, and found what we thought was the area to cut a tree, found one in Chugach National Forest and proceeded to cut it down, waist deep in snow.

We loaded it up in my little Dodge D50 pickup truck and off we went back to our happy little trailer in Anchorage. We  put it in a tree holder and filled the tree stand with water. A couple of days went by and it began to turn brown. I kept wondering what was going on? I looked at the water level and it hadn’t changed. added a bit more water and watched. Slowly over the next couple of weeks, the needles fell out and we were left with a bare tree with all its decorations about it. A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Then I realized that the stump was bout a quarter inch or so above the water line. We laughed about that for years.

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There fun we had as kids with my mom, never realizing just how little money we had, yet Christmas was such fun. The Pinatas, friends coming over, the smell of turkey in the air. I can remember the squeal of delight from my younger sisters as the threw themselves at the wrapped toys under the tree. I took great delight in that. Knowing that my brother Danny and I had spent a lot of the evening, wrapping those same presents. My mom in her chair at the dining table looking down with a worn but happy smile. those were magic times.

I realize now that the conversation with Dr Sinclair hung in the back of my mind for all this time. Lynda should not be here. Based on patient history of  those whose cancer that has spread, she should be gone, and I should be a widower yet again. and had this scenario played out, I am at a loss as to where I would be. and that thought chills my bones to the core. However, I am humbled by this Christmas that shouldn’t be.

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It is by far one of the greatest gifts that the universe could have ever bestowed on me. And my promise? I won’t squander it, and instead of being “Grinchy” I opt more for the “It’s a wonderful life” attitude. This is indeed the Christmas that shouldn’t be.  And may there be many more, not only for us, but for all of you who read this post as well.

Merry Christmas to all  and a quote from “It’s a wonderful life”

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he”?

Here is to the lack of holes in your world.

Merry Christmas to all

Note*** And especially to Regina, who just lost her husband, I truly know the loss, and if ever we can be of help, reach out, we are here.

 

Erick and Lynda Carpenter

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Angels among us

Mark Neidig posted on facebook today, Mark is a friend that was the director of what I consider to be a cure for cancer. (I hope that the company he worked for proves me right). He brought up a point about how he gave some money to a homeless man and said quote “There was just something in his eyes…perhaps, I entertained an angel unawares!”

And it reminded me of a turning point in my life. OUR lives. Have you ever had a moment in life where you are about to do something and it is if the world pauses for a moment, catching its breath right before you make that choice or do that thing? Yes, that thing that at the time was a pretty small endeavor, a little thing that later, cascaded into a life changing event? The one where you look back and you can see that event taking place as clear as a sunny day?

I have had a few of those in life. One was when I was a teenager, around 14 or so, give or take a year. But we were in a Sears department store, and my mom was having us shop for clothes. The girls were running around picking out what they liked, as was I. I had selected a few pants and shirts, and as I came around the corner, I could hear my mother say “I don’t know how I will pay for this, but oh well, will find a way”.

That hit me like a brick. I put back all my clothes except for one pair of pants and one shirt. My mom looked at me and asked me where the rest of my clothes were. I told her I would pay for my own “stuff” from now on. I meant it. From that day forward, I paid for everything that I ever owned. I learned lessons from that event, some good, some bad, but it was a life changing event that I can see as clearly as the lack of hair on my head.

Later, there was another event. One with “different” players. Lynda had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and on a CT scan she had a spot on her shoulder. We freaked. Scared was not a good descriptor, frightened, petrified, those didn’t come close to the feelings of those days. I had lost my Connie to this monster in 2001, and now? Lynda was in the same playing field. One with land mines every other inch, and one mis-step and she would be gone. My intent was to be her rock, to be her Gibraltar, never swerve never stray from the single fact that she would win this battle with cancer. I think, I hoped that I did a good job of that.

We went to Arizona to see a doctor who had a pretty good track record of treating stage IV cancers. Including his own. He was treating Lynda now, and I would drive back and forth from California to Arizona, stay for 3 days and drive back to California to work. We were in the process of realizing that we were spending all of our retirement, and I had come to realize that we were going to lose the house. All of this therapy was out of pocket with no guarantee that anything would work. I realized that I didn’t care, that I would spend my last penny if it meant one more day with Lynda… It was worth every last penny and any that I could find.

Stress was at an all time high, my mind was focused on keeping Lynda alive, no, not alive, healthy, to get her back to “no cancer” that was all I wanted. When Connie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer I did something I had not done much at anytime in my life. I prayed.. I actually bent a knee and dropped my head. I offered a deal, you cure Connie, and I will take her place. Deal? The answer was “no”.

With Lynda? Even after I had sworn I would never ever again bend my knee, I did so, without hesitation. I made the same deal. You cure Lynda, and I will swap places. Nothing. Not even a chuckle or a curse. So I decided enough of that, waste of time. I traveled to Arizona, spent the 3 days with Lynda and was on my way back to California. I was tired, beat, bone fucking weary, and now that I was out of sight of Lynda I could show it. I pulled into a gas station, some 7-11 or some such spot, and jumped out of my truck to fill it up and head back. A voice came from the front of my truck and I looked up.

A black man with dreadlocks, arms the size of my legs, about my height, but twice as wide and it was all muscle was talking to me. I stepped back and at first I thought, “Shit, I am about to get mugged” and balled up my right fist with my keys protruding through my fingers.. Figured we could go a couple of rounds before whatever happened happened, then? I saw him. I mean I really saw the man. He was righteous. There was an aura about him that was undefinable, it was as if he was physically glowing… and at that point? I realized that I was looking at an angel. I mean the energy pouring out of this guy was nothing short of magic. Call it holy. I listened to his words, which were eloquent, but what I truly heard was something altogether different.

I heard my universe take in a breath, and pause. I knew here, right then and there, was a moment that would change my world forever, and how I treated this man, what I did to him, would be done to me a hundred fold. He was asking for money, but in a way that I had never heard before. I usually just brushed people like this off, go find your booze money someplace else or your drug money elsewhere. Seen it a million times. But this guy? This was different. I could feel the universe in a pause mode.

I told him to wait a second, that I would be right back. I could hear him sigh, and I walked inside the convenience store. We didn’t have a lot of cash on hand, most of it we had used for therapy, but I took what I could and went back out. I handed him about 40 bucks, more than I could afford, but there was something going on here that was different. When I came back and handed him the money, the universe let out its breath and it went through me like a spring breeze of peace and dare I say it, love. The aura this guy projected grew.. I mean really glowed. He took the money, and gave me a dazzling smile and hugged me. And somewhere in that hug, I knew everything would be ok.

For the first time in weeks, I had my first night of complete rest. The spot on Lynda’s shoulder never changed. It never got worse, it never got better. We had some very serious ups and downs since then, but know what? Lynda is still by my side, and I am convinced she will be long into our golden years. That man? Maybe just a bum, but in my mind? Proof that there are angels that walk among us, and how we treat them, who we are to them?

Maybe, just maybe, it is a turning point in how the universe decides to treat us.

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Road trip from Hades

Trip from Hades…

 

Lynda and I left St Cloud, Florida, a nice quiet little lake in Florida that had herons, cattle egrets, and Sand Hill Cranes galore.. Even had a couple of gators and their buddies the turtles that would hang out on the beach during the day and just sun. Very relaxing, but also eye opening. Lynda realized that she no longer had the attraction to Florida that it once held for her. For me, this was a huge deal as we almost bought property there sight unseen.

We finally agreed that we liked the idea of Colorado as home, we had discussed that as teenagers. Then, Lynda’s uncle, Dan, had met his hot new 77-year-old honey and they had bought a home together and he was selling his at a pretty good price. Lynda woke up one morning at 3 am and had an idea. (She at least waited until I woke up later on) and asked “Why don’t we buy Dan’s house”? and the decision was made. We called her uncle and made our proposal.

I flew back to San Diego to see my doc, and to pick up Lynda’s car to drive to Grand Junction.. woo HOO Chrysler Crossfires do haul buns and handle nicely.. I spent an extra day in Vegas to hang with our friends, Vicki and Brad. What a great time. I left Lynda’s car in Grand Junction, landed a job at the same time (being late to the interview due to my own scheduling snafu) then flew back to Orlando where Lynda picked me up and the next day? The Hades launch was made.

I had noticed a slight vibration in the rig that seemed to be increasing, just a bit each day. And that there was a lurch of sorts when we took off from a stop.. I just chalked it up to the truck weighing a ton (3 tons to be precise). And off we went. We traveled through Georgia and into Arkansas with little issue along the way, other than changing the route a couple of times, but all in all not a big deal. We stopped by her nephew’s place where they had just had a little kiddo and we wanted to see everyone and that was very pleasant.

We loaded up into “Koko” and off we went. The vibration getting more noticeable and I wasn’t feeling a hundred percent. We pulled out of a KOA in the middle of the night, not knowing the way out of the park, with my truck in tow. I rounded this rather sharp turn, and instead of saying “honey, I can’t see shit, spot me outside”, I just said screw it, “I got this” and CRUNCH. Stopped the rig Lynda hopped out the back and sure as shit, I had swiped one of the poles that were already tilted from other hits on the side of the curve. I had mashed the running board on my truck. 15,000 miles or so with some close calls and Walla, I had finally run out of luck.

I jumped out, tired and frustrated and had to work with a hammer to get the truck disconnected from the rv. Got it parted, and backed the truck up. Still runnable, just cosmetic damage. So decided I would keep it, have a new paint job and some bodywork and keep it for a while longer. I also noticed I was getting warmer as the evening progressed. Later as we were coming into Oklahoma, I came off an off ramp that had a serious left turn, and the guy in the outer lane to me, just didn’t budge an inch, so I had a choice, take out the truck or take the curb with the back wheel. I took the curb

Ever been in an RV when you run over a curb on the rear wheel? It rocks like nothing you have ever sat in.. I thought shit was going to fly out of every cabinet and cupboard… Lynda went “HOLY SHIT” and I said a lot worse… but just a curb.. We arrived at the RV site in Oklahoma City and I am seeing stars… funny stars, when Lynda leans over and says, “Honey, I think you are running a temperature. I kind of ignored it wondering what has spilled out over the curb dance we had done.

Lo and behold the shower filter I had haphazardly installed had snapped off. It had been installed on the water pressure valve that keeps the water pressure down in the shower. Small plastic spindle that screws into the shower handles that when you turn them allows water to flow through the showerhead. I looked at it and thought, “ok, I knew I half ass installed that, so penalty box time”. So I went out and got my new trusty toolbox muttering to myself the entire time, and Lynda says “Honey, why don’t you take a nap”? Again, ignored her, then finally said, “Hey, I gotta fix this if we are gonna shower”.

In the meantime, the inverter gave us an error message and was beeping out loud. At first I thought the system was just goofed up from one to many bounces so I reset all the breakers and checked what I knew to check and to no avail, the beeping continued. Lynda finally grabbed the inverter manual and I read up on that. Turns out that the reason it was beeping was that the batteries were at a minimum charge and were not accepting anymore. I.e.? Your batteries are toast. Which means if we get new ones it is a 700-dollar investment and we are about to park the rig for 2 years. Something else we both knew was coming, we were just hoping to get to Grand Junction. So, solution? Turn off the inverter and use the generator.

I turned back to the shower in a temperature-laden haze and looked at the piece of plastic still screwed into the shower faucet. The only way I could figure to get it out was to get a knife, tap it down until it got a bite, then turn it and screw the plastic piece out. If that didn’t work, I can just replace the entire faucet and call it good, but the plastic piece is only 5 bucks the handles and plumbing are more like 50 bucks or better.

I pulled out my trusty scuba knife and opened it up.. thought I heard the “snick” of the blade locking into place and I put the knifepoint down into the hole where the plastic piece was screwed in and brought my hand down on it forcefully. Not real hard, but enough to get a substantial bite into the plastic.

 

Snick

 

The blade folded and closed and my finger was in it. Blood shot across the shower and all I can think is “Shit, this might be bad, that is a REALLY sharp knife”.. and I quickly reopened the knife, which sent more blood shooting across the shower. F&*K F&*K F&*K and I am trying to find a towel, anything, and find a washcloth. In the meantime, Lynda has a business call in two minutes and she sees the little spurt of blood in the shower. Now she is a little frustrated with me as I ignored her in the first place.. remember the “nap” suggestion? So she is scrambling trying to patch my stupid finger up and take a call and I am standing there somewhere between a really good fever and being pissed that I just cut myself AND haven’t fixed a damn thing in days.

Magically Lynda gets a couple of band aids on my finger and I just toss the knife into my tool bag, look at her and say “Know what? Gonna go take that nap”. And off I go. She looks at me like “DUH” and goes and takes her call. Over the next three days I let the temperature go where it will and finally on the third day I take some ibuprofen to dampen down a splitting headache. Next day? Starting to feel better. We decide we can fix all this crap when we get into Grand Junction. So other than a mild hack and a temp that comes and goes, I don’t feel all that bad.. Normally I would be flat on my back with bronchitis, but Lynda has learned a few things in alternative medicine, and while I may be skeptical, this is the second time I have stayed on my feet and haven’t ended up with bronchitis or worse. She is on to something

We finally end up in Albuquerque, and visit my sister. We go out to our favorite Mexican restaurant called Sadie’s, and I order a Chile Relleno. GREAT food and safe for me cause I am not allergic to them! Woot woot says I… They bring the plates and we dig in, laughing about the trip from hades and then I notice a taste.. something I haven’t had for…. Years. Potatoes… mmmmmmm and I am allergic as hell to them. They cause asthma in my lungs. Son of a …. So I take Benadryl that night and wake up, no problems.. I am impressed! Woot woot says I, dodged that bullet. We bid my little sister adieu and head off to Grand Junction.

Now that vibration? Is getting really bad. We pull over in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico so I can look at nothing I truly understand. The first time I look at the U joints? They look ok, not loose, not goofy, so nothing makes sense. We go down the road another 10 miles and I say ok, I have to look again. This time? Oh shit, the U-joint is breaking up. One of the clasps that keeps the yoke in place are broken. I don’t think we will make it much further.

We agree to take the Toyota off the back and have me drive it and follow Lynda to Farmington, New Mexico, 77 miles away. The entire way we are both saying “Just a little further, just a little further”. We pull into Farmington and I Google truck repair. We find Bruckner’s Sales and Service for large trucks. We pull in and they say “Yep, we can work on your rig, no problem”. Later the shop manager comes up to us and says, yeah, you’re right, your U-joint is out, and so is the Yoke, and we are checking the driveline. Turns out the driveline is fine, but the U-joints and the Yoke need replacement. They tell us that they can order them and have them in the next day and have us on the road by 1 or 2. GREAT shop. We get a motel room and just relax.

The next day we get to the shop and they are doing a great job, quick and the labor was pretty cheap. The parts? Not so much. All things said and done the job was about 1300 dollars for the job. About what I figured it would be. And the reason it failed? No grease. I thought a shop in Washington had greased it for some reason when they changed the oil. Live and learn. We pulled into Grand Junction and my list of repair work is finally stabilized.. and my finger, thanks to the fingernail being in the way is still attached.

The road trip for a lifetime is winding down for now, and the house trip for a lifetime (or for at least two years) is winding up. Stay tuned, Lynda’s uncle has agreed to teach me how to remodel a house… Anyone know where I can find my scuba knife to pound a nail into a shingle?

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ccccchanges… think that is a song…

Well, the fun part about this road trip for a lifetime is that we are fluid. Like the blades of glass in the wind, we know when to bend with the wind, and let go that of being as a tree that can often be broken in the gale force of a storm.

Lynda has taken on a masters degree in complimentary and alternative medicine. She and I have spent the last, what, 8 years researching alternative methods for treating cancer, as the standard therapies just didn’t sound all that good. And truth be told we will never truly know what was the better of two choices, alternative or standard, except that against all odds, she is still alive and very very healthy.

I am quoting statistics here, and for those fighting this disease, please PLEASE skip this paragraph, you do NOT need the following information rattling around in your noodle. Based on standard medicine’s therapies, once a cancer metastasizes to another place, it is referred to as stage IV. and that is considered to be terminal. Just a matter of time. The best they can do is just that, maybe, is buy you time.

There are, however, many people that have gone on to survive and for whatever reason, live on quite well, with no signs of cancer. Everyone that has survived has a different story. Some claim it was God, while others claim science, and still others claim a mixture of all of it. Lynda and I feel that what works for one person, may or may not work for another. We remain of the same opinion that while cancer is a devastating word to hear in the same sentence with your own name, it is seldom a health emergency.

Your doctor, depending on who that person is, may feel differently, and that for their own reasons. Our opinion is this, try the alternative therapies first. Those that promote healing, a healthy environment that cancer has a hard time growing in, and boosting your immune system as well as you can. Become your own advocate, research, listen, ask questions on EVERYTHING… and at the end of the day if these less invasive procedures don’t work?

Go give the western medicine a roll of dice and see what you get. If nothing else you may be in better shape to deal with chemo and radiation. It may fix you if the other did not… but remember, it is toxic, it is physically devastating, and may or may not work, that is something that you, unfortunately (or fortunately) have to find out on your own. But long and the short of it, you are on a path that is scary, full of trials and tribulations and will rock your world forever, regardless of outcome.

Yet, in that, for the first time in years, Lynda and I are truly planning on a future. I mean that. This road trip? It was the result of having a conversation with my younger sister, Daonne, while I was dealing with Lynda’s cancer having resurfaced. Lynda had some blockage, her intestine swelled shut. No reason why, just did. They finally agreed on surgery after a few days in the hospital. Turns out she had a single cell of cancer called a “strand” in the lining of her intestine.  Not on the outside, not on the inside but actually inside the wall of the intestine, just a single cell, but enough to piss off her intestine to the point of closing.

The surgeon that did the work said he had never seen anything like that before. And Lynda has heard that statement more times than we care to admit. So while I was home pretty much freaking out about all this as I had true flashbacks of watching my first wife, Connie die from cancer, my younger sister asked me what I was going to do if I lost Lynda.

Stopped me in my tracks. Cold. Never once, even during my freaking out did I truly think that was possible. I never let my mind go down that path. Ever. But, there I was, finally having to face my absolute worst fear. I spit out something to the effect of “Disappear” “Vanish” go on a permanent walkabout, travel the US, go skiing, go backpacking, but leave people alone for awhile…

I knew that if that happened, my world would be gone.. Just as it had done when Connie died. That was the day my world ended. and it started back up again when Lynda walked back into my life. and to be honest, if that happened, that would be it.. There is no other “Lynda” in my life..

Little sister processed that… not sure how or when, but later on, Lynda approached me and asked me if that is what I said. I told her “Yes, without you, I have no world to be in”. She said, “Well, if you would do that without me, why not do it WITH me”? and so our road trip for a lifetime began. Short spurts, buying the rig, living in it while we figured out what we could do or not do, and it came together. At the same time, we went for another PET scan to see what more damage had been done. The last time we ran one, we found four spots total. the original on her shoulder, two spots on her spine and one in her hips.

We were prepared for the worst. Lynda and I had finally tried out last shot, Lynda did a regimen of baking soda and black strap molasses for 3 weeks or so. She started off with one tsp of baking soda mixed with 1tsp of black strap molasses once a day, then three times a day, then 2tsp three times a day until she was up to something like 8 tsp of each a day… she started getting a bit loopy, so she came back down to 1tsp a day and started taking milk thistle as well as the baking soda made her liver feel “weird”…

We went into the PET scan with the expectations of “holy shit batman” it is worse. Dr. Sinclair gave us the results. two spots were dead. two were seriously fading and no signs anywhere else… Whatever you are doing? Keep doing it. Lynda took him up on that and began adding other items in. Raw Veganism, supplements that fight cancer without being toxic, boosting the immune system and removing every possible toxin she can from her system and from what she is exposed to.

So, for the first time in over two years? We are truly planning a future beyond next month. She is pursuing her degree. We are trying to buy a house in Grand Junction. I am interviewing for a position with Mesa county. We are looking at a timeline beyond next month. The road trip? I think for both of us, maybe subconsciously, was to avoid thinking too hard about next month or next year. Instead, focus on the now, the present, the journey, and that is still our focus, but for the first time in a while?

It looks like the journey might just be a bit longer than we imagined. Will see.

Thank you all for sharing our trip with us, as it will continue. We may settle in Grand Junction, we may not. It truly depends on a myriad of “things” coming together. We may not be able to get a loan for the home, and in that case, we will keep doing what we do.. The name of the game? Stay fluid, and enjoy the ride.

Hippiness

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Cancer, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Warrior.. A person defined

I have seen that word used a million different ways. I spent six years of my life being one of those crazy bastards otherwise known as the US Marines. Always thought that would be the toughest training of my life. I find it amazing in how something can simply be a stepping stone to challenges that are above and beyond what you thought was hard.

My wife and I trained for a marathon. 26.2 miles of running… Up until the day of the marathon, we had only run 18 miles max. But we figured if we could get that far we could do 26.2. So on the marathon course, about mile 21 Lynda was getting ready to pull it over and call it good. Then her brother “stepped out” of the crowd to help her along.

Elvis in the bldg

David is in a wheelchair, he has no movement below his shoulders. He is a quadriplegic due to a three wheeler accident. That lifted Lynda up and inspired her to finish the entire marathon, having him wheel beside us for a mile or so. Inspired me as well. When we finished, Lynda was proud, but told me she would NEVER run that far again, she had never in her life ever put herself through that much pain. A stepping stone that we were unaware of.

Teaching at San Diego State

Teaching at San Diego State

I had watched my first wife, Connie, die from pancreatic cancer, in one hundred and sixty three days from diagnosis to death, I watched the woman I love go from a vibrant woman to a whisper. If you have ever had to live through that particular nightmare, it is the cruelest, meanest thing that life can hand you, but also the time in your life when you realize that you had better put all you have into your time left. Make it worth the show.

In 2008 a spot showed up on Lynda’s shoulder. and we freaked. We went to Arizona to try a naturopath there that had some pretty good results with cancer that had spread. Lynda’s brother just happened to have bought a small condo there in the same area. He fixed it up beautifully and she stayed there while I worked in California for 4 days then drove back and forth to Arizona. Somewhere in the process Lynda was infused with a bag of sterile water. The medicine didn’t make it into the bag, and so she got a bag of sterile water. Guess what that does?

It causes acute hemolytic anemia. She couldn’t take 3 steps without almost falling down. They infused here with 6 pints of blood to get her back. I damn near lost her that day. At the time, none of the physicians had any idea what had happened. They suspected that the cancer had somehow gone wild and got into her bones. They did a bone marrow check and nope, she was fine. It wasn’t until years later when we were discussing what had happened with my doctor that he went “Hey! yeah, sterile water, the doctor didn’t infuse the bag with meds”.

Remember that stepping stone? If Lynda had not been in such phenomenal shape, chances are she wouldn’t have made it. In the meantime, I get to be the watchful guardian, and I missed that. I realize that is nothing I normally would have seen, but now? Paranoia runs supreme in my household… I check everything, but fortunately I haven’t had to since then.

Dealing with cancer, regardless of how you treat it, naturopathically or standard western medicine, you need to understand from the moment that they use the word “cancer” and your name in the same sentence, your life as you know it is over. Every tweak, every twinge, every little “wtf”, is scary. It is a lot like going through combat. I have a friend, Michael Palfrey, who did some time in Iraq going from house to house… He commented that he hated TV with a passion, movies too. Cause right before someone gets killed you hear the music change or go up in volume then “BANG” someone dies. He said in reality? The guy’s head just explodes and he drops. No music, no nothing, he is just gone.

With cancer? you never know what is around the next corner, you are always on alert, always in some form of “combat mode”, blood tests, markers, urine tests, PET scans, MRI’s always probing for the enemy… and that changes who you are and how you present yourself to the world. It is a lifetime of tap dancing through landmines, just waiting for one to go off. I have watched Lynda over the years. She has gone from a confident woman to a confident warrior in the truest meaning of the word. She changed her lifestyle, her diet, and has researched everything from nutrition to supplements to medicine. She has fought hard for every day she has with me. And while I may be a squad leader, the real fighter is Lynda. I am just support.

For all you nurses, doctors, friends and family that have supported us? Especially Dr. James Sinclair of Pacific Oncology, you and your staff just ROCK.

Thank you, the fight has been a good one and continues on.. This gal here: “Warriors” was another inspiration, in fact, this gal inspired this post via a Facebook post that made me remember just what a warrior my own wife is.

Me and my wife

Me and my wife

Honey, I got yer back for the next 40 years.

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Legends

A friend of mine today, placed a post on FaceBook that I found amusing as hell. It was about how Batman was no superhero, and how when they made his costume, inside it says essentially, you can’t fly in this outfit.

But Cointreau Mon Cherie! You can indeed! I am living proof that anyone can be a super hero. My mother hand sewed a Robin outfit from the characters of Batman and Robin from the 60’s. I could FLY! Well, maybe not. I saw my older brother come into our bedroom and I decided that I could fly. I launched into the void and used my face as a weapon against his shoulder. Broke my nose blacked both my eyes. But provided my brother with a laugh that he still has today.

I was a die hard fan of Batman. Even had a dance that went along with the song of  BATMAN! I was mesmerized for life. The idea that the average schmoe (well not so average) could change the world for better by fighting bad guys in a costume that gave him extraordinary power or at least tools that allowed him to be courageous in any situation? This was for me.

The WHAM and BAM and SOCK EM was in my veins.. Later, my parents let me buy comic books where I learned to truly read. I could tie visuals to the words and in turn lit my imagination on fire. I could now see Superman flying through the air, fighting Lex Luthor with his heat vision and super strength. I could see Flash running so fast no one could see him until it was too late. The Green Lantern was another who could create shapes from his ring with his mind.

Each of the characters had flaws, weaknesses to overcome. They had their powers, but each could be brought down in a multitude of ways. It was always so cool to see how they over came them for the better good. Time and again they vanquished the villains. and as the years went by the comic books matured. On again off again, I will stop in a comic shop to browse, and yes, as an adult sometimes purchase a good graphic novel. It propels me back to my childhood when a book and some imagination was all you needed.

Later, as I grew into this rather insane world, I realized that we had super heroes.. they wore costumes and changed the world for the better. Gandhi, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Mother Teresa… These super heroes all wore costumes of a kind and made huge changes in this world for the better. They had their weaknesses to overcome, and their challenges to stand up to. These were the true hero’s of their time.

I look around to day and we seem to be lacking this basic leadership. Role models that kids can look up to and say “Wow”, “when I grow up this is who I want to be like”.  Those are few and far between. Our leaders today seem to be more interested in the 15 second sound bite of how they can run down someone else. The days of true hero’s, I look around and wonder where they may be… Then I realize something.

Today, it is the parent, the father, the wife, the brother, the uncle, the sister, the aunt, those that inspire us to be more than who we are… Those are todays heros. The firefighters that died trying to rescue people from the 9/11 attacks. The teacher that put her life first so that the kids might survive in school shootings. Our veterans who put their lives on the line for our country.

These are today’s hero’s not the world shaking kind, but those that make a small difference in the local neighborhoods.. In our homes. When you look at your child today, remember that he or she looks to you as the new age Hero… It is a tough order to follow, but you must become more than who you are in order to lead these new kids to a better place.

Welcome to the world of super hero’s… Let me hand you your cape.

superman

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Dash

I once heard from a guy or read in a book, I don’t remember which, that a guy was standing at a grave site and looking at the headstone. On that headstone was two dates. And he was staring very intently at those two dates. Someone standing next to him made a comment about the end date.. and how final it was. The guy looked over and said that those two dates had no significance, instead it was the “dash”. The point in between the two dates. “We are all born, and we all die, but the dash is the important part, how you live your life”. Then he turned and walked away from the stone.

That, among many things I have heard or read over the years had an impact on how we live. Lines that I often quote are some from “The Shawshank Redemption”…

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Lynda and I chose the former. When faced with some really shitty news, or given a dire diagnosis, everyone gets to make a choice. Sometimes that choice is to do nothing and let life take its course. One is to fight tooth and nail for every moment, and use every tool available to scratch out what is hopefully another minute of life. Another still is to choose a different path. Let the diagnosis do whatever it may, but instead of focusing on treating the disease, make the best educated choices you can, and then?

Get busy living.

So since Lynda’s dire diagnosis, Lynda chose to educate herself as well as she could, use the tools, but instead of just focusing on survival, to get busy living a life that is as packed full of stories that we could load into a lifetime, be it just a day away or fifty years away. We focus on the here and now, and keep an eye on the future. What people don’t seem to understand is…… that we get it.

Yesterday is a cashed check, tomorrow is a promissory note, today is ready cash… Spend it wisely.

With that frame of mind, we are packing as much as we possibly can into this life, hoping for a future, but not willing to bet our lives on it. Instead bet on here and now, as that is our “dash” our important part. Our plans or our “bucket list” grows daily. And what shakes out is what shakes out. But that current list goes something like this:

  • Tibet – Being on part of a medical team to help the folks there, backpacking from town to town
  • Africa – A photo safari of the migrations there
  • British Virgin Islands – An island hopping trip for 10-14 days with close friends
  • Alaska – Road trip in our RV so Lynda can see all the majesty that I have seen
  • Europe – Greece, Italy, backpacking through Europe on a European Tran Pass and see Europe first hand
  • Diving in Palau
  • Diving in Australia
  • Visit New Zealand
  • Backpack on the Appalachian Trail
  • Backpack through the Black Hills
  • More backpacking in Alaska

Just a start, with Lynda doing her Masters, it may be a bit before the major push on this list. The Masters in complimentary and alternative medicine is another bucket list item for Lynda, and that is underway. However, while she works on this bucket list item, I can work on mine. What I will ask from each of you that follows this blog, take some time and make a bucket list. Day dream, play fantasy, and write down the things in life you would truly like to do… Then pick the top three.

Then make plans to do that bucket list item. What will that item take? How will you do that adventure? and plan your goal out. plan for the time off from work. plan for the expenses. Make that adventure your goal. Tell your friends about what that “bucket list item” is. Everyone lives in the thought of “I have time”. and I am sure that those people who went to work on 9/11 in New York thought the exact same thing. And it truly sucks to have your life cut short with no warning. And folks? That is usually the way it works. You are there one minute. And gone in the next.

So do Lynda and myself a favor. Let us inspire your “dash”. Let our adventures inspire you to reach yours. Use your passion, your imagination and your dreams to be your guide. Time is no ones friend. It is the one thing you cannot get more of nor can you get it back once it is spent. But you can make the most of what you have. Do that for us. Do that for you.

Make your dash count…

 

erick and Lynda bristlecones  2013 NOLS ELLE B

E&L IMG_2274

Erick Lynda Garrett -2 Table Rock Jungle Erick and Lynda

20131107_103749  IMG_3965

Namaste

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

A quote got me

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

That is supposed to be a quote from Mark Twain, I cannot validate that, but I choose to believe that he did indeed write it. And with that, my post.

Lynda and I decided to follow that advice, although we had not received it directly from Mark Twain, but after getting the living hell scared out of both of us, a conversation filtered from my loving sister, Daonne, to Lynda. The conversation that Daonne and I had was a very serious one that blew in like a wind, foretelling of coming disaster and dark times. We were chatting after Lynda’s diagnosis, and Daonne simply said, “What will you do if you lose her”?

An honest question, as Lynda’s diagnosis back then was dire. And it had both of us trying to figure out what to do. We had many recommendations, such as reduce stress. Lynda was working 60 hour work weeks, with periodic 80 or 90 hour work weeks during her companies training sessions, about once a quarter. And her pay had just been cut by 30K a year. She came home in tears more often than I could count, even though she truly loved her job. Her health was paying the price. My job was pretty stress free, and the hours were stable, and the pay was excellent. I had a great boss, Cathy Young. Later I would discover she was a god send.

That question brought my world to a screeching halt. It had never once truly entered my mind that I could lose her. In that instant the darkest of time went through my mind. I stammered, I balked, but I caught myself and said that “I really don’t know”. “My life would be over, guess I would just mark time until my body caught up”. “Probably go ski patrol in Colorado, hike trails to get away, travel the world or at least the US”. Daonne kind of nodded and we let that errant line of thought go on its way. Much to my surprise, Daonne had a conversation with Lynda and passed on what I would do. Lynda approached me the next day and said that “If that is what you would do without me, why don’t we do it together instead”?

So after a teary eyed moment or three, we decided, then and there, it was time to hang up the American Dream and go live our own dream. Since that time we have sold our belongings, moved into a nice RV that we call “Koko” short for Kokopelli, the “trickster” in Native American lore.

IMG_2073

We have been traveling since June of last year, and no intention of stopping. We have hiked the Wyoming mountains with good friends,

2013 NOLS ELLE B

hiked the Wenatchee Mountains in Washington,

IMG_4569

hiked with my nephew in the Grand Tetons,

IMG_3291

and in Yellowstone National Park. We have spent time with friends in Bend, Oregon, and ended up here in Breckenridge Colorado for the ski season.

20131107_103749

We spent a month in Belize with family.

20131227_123627

and got to spend Spring Break with my family in Durango, And we ain’t done yet

Our tentative plans are to travel from here in Colorado to Key Largo, Florida, via Bangor Maine. In there somewhere, do some hiking, scuba diving, then return to Colorado for a family reunions, and head to South Dakota’s Black Hills for more backpacking and visit some friends during Sturgis. Stress? none, non-existent and Lynda’s health? She is a picture of health in every sense of the word, so that reduces my stress to a whopping “zero”.

We haven’t made final plans for returning to Colorado as we may choose to go to Utah instead, but we will see. And next year? Well, 2015 is our 10th anniversary. I would honestly like to RV up to Alaska during June/July/August, then return to the US to fly out to Africa for a photo safari with my wife, and if we can really stretch it somehow? Stop by Greece on the way for a week or so… So that American Dream? meh, underrated, ours is much much better in our eyes.

Funny what happens when you decide to go get lost.

You might just find a slice of paradise. I am simply thrilled to be sharing it with my soul mate. So Mr. Twain?

You were so right…

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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