Posts Tagged With: travel

Quiet evenings… Loud thoughts

I have spent this weekend getting a LOT done around the house. I mean putting up Christmas items, tossing the tree, re-covering the rig before it snowed again.. (and snow it did, the next day after I covered it). Cleaning the house, doing laundry, little tune ups to the house putting up weather stripping, just little knick knacky things that I would otherwise blow off. Replied to some emails, sent a few pics, putzing around. Trimming up the plants (we have a few now) repotting a couple that for whatever reason were croaking. (trying to grow a green thumb). And during that time, reading up on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a new concept for me. for the most part, I run through life on autopilot. Seriously. I flit from day-to-day without committing much to memory. And this is a multi-layered problem. Having been diagnosed unofficially with ADD or ADHD, my mind wanders.. a lot.. ooooo look! a bunny! (where was i?) Oh yeah, here. mindfulness.

The other issue was a concussion I received in Oceanside, CA. Myself and five of my buddies went out into town and proceeded to get very very drunk. We were on our way back to the buses to head back to base, one of my friends was carrying another across his shoulders as he had completely passed out, and we had just turned to head towards the bus station. The last thing I remember was seeing my friend hanging from the other guys shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

I woke three days later in a complete stupor in the hospital on base. I was in restraints. I looked down at my wrists and like some really bad movie, I am strapped into the bed. The nurse came in, realized I was finally back in the real world and cut me loose. Turns out I had punched out the doctor in the ER. and, Just like that I am standing outside the hospital trying to figure where in the fuck I am at, who am I, and where in the hell do I go? I hopped a bus and got off at my barracks in the 22 area. I had no idea which room was mine. This was scary as hell. Finally one of the Marines I knew showed me to my room, and it took me weeks to get my brains back to functioning. My short term memory since then has had issues, and long term can be spotty at times..

So with this realization I learned on my own, new tricks to make a memory work, or at least appear to function. Many of these were subconscious, not something I understood, but they worked. Things like studying, if I spend 15 minutes to a half hour of intense studying, I have learned to stop, take a break for about five to seven minutes, surf the web totally random in manner, then get back to the books.. gave me a 3.91 in my Masters. The point being that there are always ways to work around obstacles.

With this in mind, I have been reading about mindfulness, the idea that our minds affect every waking and non-waking moment we have. and what we focus on, what we spend time listening to those little voices in our heads (yes, you have them too) try closing your eyes and focus on only your breathing. In 10 seconds or less your mind will wander down one of those interesting alleyways and it will take conscious effort to bring it back to focusing on just your breathing.

This mindfulness is the concept of teaching yourself how to think with discipline, and focus. To leave anger, hurt, resentment and all those nasty negative thoughts behind you and focus on what is important. The moment you are in.

I learned a lesson through a personal growth seminar that has echoed for me ever since. Your past is your past. learn from it, grow from it, but don’t live in it.. That time is gone. The future is a promissory note. and too many things can happen that can cause that note to vanish like a fart in the wind.

You have right now. Here and now. It is the miracle of being human, of who we are. The question is, what will you do with your moment? Watch TV? Listen to the radio? Focus on how happy you are in this moment? and continue that thought to the next. and the next and the next. Thoughts are creation machines.. You bring to you what you think. It becomes real in one manner or another. It can be the greatest gift one can have or the worst curse.

So for me, mindfulness, being attentive to your thoughts and what you think is becoming more and more important. Trying to wash away the negativity of the world through various means of communication is daunting. Facebook is one of those. For each positive saying or video clips of funny animals and such there has to be five incredibly negative posts about the government, the police, or humanity in general. It is something I have watched for a few years now, and it has not changed much over that time.

Mindfulness tells you to be careful what you feed your mind, it absorbs everything.. and those little voices that we all listen to day in and day out? Tend to echo what we absorb. And after a while? We cannot discern the ugliness from the world and the ugliness that comes from us. I think the point here (if there is one as this is the ramblings of .. oooo LOOK! a bunny!).. uh, let’s see, where was… oh yeah, the point here is be careful how you feed your thoughts and what your listen to. It can be the nastier side of the human race,

Or the most beautiful

Namaste.

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Categories: Adventure, Religious, Spiritual | 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

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

Exploration and New Experiences

“Dr. Sinclair has a really cool energy” my wife stated after our meeting with him. I agreed. There was a sense of peace, a sense of calmness, in the face of absolute chaos. Let me explain that a bit. We have to go back a few years. My first wife, Connie and I were at her Oncologists office. Her regular doctor was out of town, but the other doctor would be happy to see her. While we were sitting at his desk and I somehow brought up the success rate for cancer with him, he asked me to go over to his office door and look out at his office and tell him what I saw.

I gave him an “OK what is this about stare” and got up, went over to the door, opened it, looked around, and came back and sat down. Connie was not present, I think she was in the infusion room. He asked “What did you see”? I replied that “I saw a LOT of people in your office”. He smiled and nodded his head. Then gave me probably the most honest and grim answer I had ever heard from an oncologist. “I am going to lose 80 to 85% of those people out there”, he calmly stated. “And the 15-20% that survive I cannot tell you if it is my therapies that help, or just their tenacity for survival”.

I was stunned. I had no idea just how rough it was to be an oncologist. Then I really sat and thought about that statement. I became angry, “How could you possible put people through these often brutal therapies with those statistics and sleep at night”? And I followed that up with a single thought. “If I could just help one….” and that was the answer. Help who you can, grieve for those you cannot. I spent many years grieving over losing my Connie to pancreatic cancer. The survival rate for that cancer is just about zero.

When we met Dr. Sinclair we made it pretty obvious that we were not the average patient, and that Lynda was looking more for someone who could help us with tools to track the disease rather than treat it. Dr. Sinclair accepted the offer. We were both very pleasantly surprised, and he engaged Lynda, did not challenge rather gave her suggestions for a better outcome. He never pressed, and was always quite pleasant when we visited. I would like to say that since then he has become more than a physician but a fast friend.

During our visits, I discovered the reason behind Dr. Sinclairs’ energy, as we found that he is a practicing Buddhist. (I hope that he does not mind me sharing this on my web page). But his energy, his guidance has been of great peace when we came in, often frantic over a blood test or devastated over a PET scan. Somehow, he managed to calm us down and send us out for round 3 or 4. Eventually I became interested in what Buddhism is or is not.

I am at a point in my life where the path to life is open, but getting shorter by the day. I have unlimited options to speak of, and have determined that my spiritual world has been lacking. I have found peace and tranquility in nature, and do not get out as often as I like, but feel as though something is waiting for me to discover. So I spoke to Dr Sinclair a bit about his experience with his spiritual quest, and have begun one of my own. I like what I have read about Buddhism, as the Dali Lama puts it, “My religion is compassion”. That pretty much states what it is.. Buddhism does not believe in a god, just that souls are essentially recycled, over and over, and not just here, other planets, other stars, other dimensions. We are just souls looking for physical planes to learn from. And that the highest form of spirituality is compassion for one another. I like that thought.

So plans are churning, Lynda is tied into her Masters for two years, but I am free to do what I will. In that, finding work that suits me spiritually as well as monetarily sounds good. I hope to save up for two trips. One that will probably be just me going to Tibet, the other taking Lynda to Africa for a photo safari… Will see how those two work out.

For now? Reading and listening to various books, my sister recommended one called Radical Forgiveness. Changed her life, think it may shift mine a notch or two, very worthwhile read. Other books include Meditation for Beginners, Tibetan Dream Yoga, How to Sit, and others.. all of these leading to a new fun path in life.. The part I like is that there is no telling where the journey goes, and enjoying the journey is what it is all about.

Namaste

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, RV Travel, Scuba | 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

Guatemala

Lynda and I spent the day going from the Table Rock Jungle Lodge to Tikal in Guatemala. This takes a guide from Guatemala, a driver from Belize and a driver from Guatemala.  So to take two tourists from the US to Tikal takes 3 more people.. Unless of course you choose to go at it on your own. And we have met folks who are backpacking their way through Central and South America. Way wilder than we are. But again, I digress.

Tour Guides

The ride from San Ignacio was without event, but the rain and the countryside were fabulous. The free roaming dogs and pigs are fun to watch, and a comment was made about them as we drove. The driver did quite the zig-zag around a chicken… I mean a serious “holy shit” move. And then he explained that if you hit a pig or a chicken?

You had better keep going, or it will be the most expensive animal you ever ran over. The owner (and everyone knows who the owner is, as these are very small villages) will try to get you to pay for all the eggs the chicken would have ever hatched, and the food it would have produced. Same with the pig, all the piglets they would have ever had and the food they would have produced… So if you smack one? Keep on trucking.

We met our Guatemalan guides at the border, and they all knew each other. Good team to have if you are bouncing through Central America for your first time. And we are as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers. I mean when I heard about Guatemala, it was always about corrupt police that would drag you off into the jungle and shoot you, or drug lords lurking at every corner, or something else.

We were commenting on the road to Tikal that for the most part, was paved and in good shape. Our Guatemalan guide explained that in a couple years past, the road was unpaved and took 3-3 ½ hours to travel. Now? Only 2 hours to get through. We came onto a military checkpoint, my hackles rise, Lynda gets a bit closer to me, and guess what? The driver waves, the soldier waves, they smile and we go on.. Slowly learning about paranoid US tourists… us.

The biggest crime in Belize and Guatemala? Human trafficking. Running Chinese from Belize or Guatemala to the US. Or bike theft which is the second largest crime. So drugs are not what the people in the US think, by any means. I find it quite interesting how the media and the government in the US makes so much ado about nothing.

Hugo, our guide, was very informative he talked much about the Mayan culture and its rise and fall. We spent the majority of our time on the road asking questions about the locals, learning about their government and it’s issues, then about the local ecology. Central America is far beyond the US in preserving their ecology. Or at least appear to be. Recycle, use and re-use, some due to the very nature of being a third world country, but also realizing the connection between man and the world… Screw up the world? And you don’t have a chance. However there is still an inordinate amount of garbage all around… not good.

More Tikal with Guide

There is a large lake the guides take us by, and I have long since given up the ability to pronounce it, that the locals use quite a bit, including laundry places where the ladies will spend the day washing clothes for the family. I mean standing waist deep in the water with shelving all around and mashing, squeezing, thrashing and rinsing the laundry. This same lake, every 3 months or so, gives off a sulfur purge that the locals say smells quite bad.

My theory is that it is on a volcanic vent that “belches” every so often and creates the smell. It may also be that the bottom of the lake has a methane deposit that releases periodically as well. It would be an interesting study. We were also shown how some villagers are using old plastic bottles and concrete to build walls in their homes and insulate against the cold here. (Cold being a very relative thing) but the plastic bottles that reduce the amount of concrete used, keep insulation value, and actually provide light into the house versus using costly windows. Clever people here in Central America.

The trip also had a stop at a local shopping store that donates an amount of purchases to local charities; thereby the entire tourist guides tend to stop there. The food is good, the pico-de-gallo is HOT, habanero hot, but enjoyable. The final stop in Tikal at the actual site is well maintained and for us, fairly slow tourist wise. Our guide, Hugo, was again very informative about the site, and was able to show us highlights that if we had been on our own, would likely have missed. Hugo also told us where to get the best angles for photos at, and what we were photographing and the history behind each area. We took off around the central Mayan ruins area, peeking in on areas that while have been seen by many, gave us a rough glimpse into the past of the location and its people. I will say that looking around and the locals had performed realizing that the local community was about 128,000 people, a LOT of work.

Tikal center

Then the realization hit that they had zero machinery, and it was all done by hand and by animals. They flattened large areas for building their temples and astrological viewpoints from, knew enough about stars to align the buildings perfectly, and were able to raise these buildings without help of any mechanical assistance.

Pretty damn crazy.

And to both of us who had seen pictures of these ruins in our books in school? Even more astounding was that two kids from Roswell had made it here to see this human accomplishment. I think this was a surprising discovery that somehow, two kids from a pretty humble start in life had found their way to Guatemala and were standing in some ruins dating back to 700AD. Not a bad start for a road trip for a lifetime.

Us in Guatemala

When we finally finished the tour of the Tikal site, we returned to the Table Rock Jungle Lodge with little or no issue, muddy, tired and very happy. We spent the evening talking to travelers, who were staying here, and wild tales were shared, contact information swapped, and tired eyes took us to bed. Then Lynda had a surprise visitor. Something she ate caused a blockage in her intestine, which catapulted us, right back into the wide world of cancer.

Jungle Boogie

Jungle Boogie

Lynda and I had hoped that those days were behind us, that the days of swollen intestines closing off food processing were over. And apparently they are not. The larger issue with this problem is that there is not a lot of medical help available here, so Lynda, being the incredibly “insightful” person she is, made it a point to bring pain killers and stool softeners on the trip. After about 2 hours of intense pain and discomfort, the blockage either broke down and passed or came up, or both. Welcome to the roller coaster from hell. One-minute life is good, and in a split second it can be questioned how much you have left.

Now, instead of freaking out and collapsing into a bowl of emotional jelly, which was my gut reaction, we have both determined that path is not for us. While quite scary and disconcerting there is another angle to look at this incident. The angle we take is a way to make something positive out of something that is as spooky as it gets.

Getting the shit scared out of you reminds you how tenuous your hold on life can be, and that in a moment, your life can be wrested away from any plans you may have had. So we live in the moment, with these reminders to do just that. Planning ahead is fine, but make the plan for the immediate future your priority, your drive.

Life is a short run thing, no matter how long you have. And with that, make the most of what you have while you have it… Surprises, both good and bad come your way every day. So make the best of every moment you have. This is how “cancer” or “can-serve” affects our lives. We make it a better life by the drive this disease gives us.

Lynda may live to be one hundred, I may live to be one hundred, or we may not. We live as if we may not. We live as if today might very well be the last, and with that point of view it makes life more energetic, fun, passionate, scary, exciting. Pick one. Pick them all, but don’t stand around trying to figure out which one to pick… Get busy living, Or get busy dying. We choose the former.

On that note, we have begun building our bucket lists again, working on which adventure should be next, and in that, we have had shifts in our comfort zones, at least I certainly have. Earlier I had said the couple that were backpacking through central America and south America were wilder than us? Maybe not anymore. Although we are not likely to grab a pack and give central America a go, we are not against it either.

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Family, Hiking, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Spiritual, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Colorado… land of dreams…

It was the back to school dance of 1980. I (Lynda) was starting my sophomore year: Erick was starting his Junior year at Goddard High School in Roswell, NM. That was when it all started.  Erick had seen me during the school year but I was going steady (remember that term) with a friend of his named Frank. Frank and I broke up over the summer and I was a single girl… until that Back to School dance. Erick wasted no time. He immediately asked me to dance and we danced all night together. Yes, he asked for my phone number and with much excitement I gave it to him.

When he called the next week (he was genius) he said that he was taking his younger sister to the circus in town and would I like to go. How could mom say no to that? He was such a gentleman. He, of course, met my parents and promised to have me home right after the circus. He opened my door and did all the things that a young man is supposed to do. Oh, and he cleaned up so nice. I was so proud to take his arm and hold his hand and walk next to him. Little did I know that 22 years later when I took that hand again it would take our breath away. More on that later…

As we began to get more and more serious in our dating he gave me a Promise Ring. It had our names down each side and a tiny diamond at the top. We talked about where we would go after we graduated high school. I had moved to Roswell in the summer of 1979 between ninth and tenth grade. My freshman year, 1978, was spent in Colorado Springs; CO. Colorado was greener than anything I had ever seen at the time.

My parents moved there from Oceanside, CA where I went to seventh and eights grade.  Oceanside was ok but it was a rough time for me and I was thrilled to leave. Colorado was different. I had always lived in the desert, never where the scent of pines filled the air and there was snow.  And yes, I had to walk a quarter mile in the snow to wait for the school bus. We had 3 acres just outside of Colorado Springs and we could look out over the city lights at night and see the tram lights as they went up the side of Pikes Peak. Under a full moon the snow on the mountains would glisten and reflect the moonlight. Twinkling stars were everywhere.

We decided after graduation we would move to Colorado and buy an A-frame house and grow old together. We talked about living in Colorado; what it would be like and what we would do.

Well, he had difficulty with a certain vice-principle in school. It was clear that Mr. Lair was going to do everything he could to see that Erick didn’t graduate. Erick knew he couldn’t support me without an education so he went to speak to the recruiters. He would have liked to join the Air Force but poor vision and glasses deleted that option so instead he enlisted in the Marines. He knew I would talk him out of it so he didn’t tell me until right before he left for boot camp. I was angry. No, I was Livid! But there was nothing I could do but let him go and promise to be here when he came home.

He came home after graduation from boot camp. OMG did he looked good. He walked taller and straighter than I had ever seen anyone walk. He was no longer a high school kid, he had become not just a man; he had become a Marine. He was home for about 15 days and then he was gone again. He had become a Marine, but I was still just a high school girl whose worth is measured by whether she had a date to the prom. Long story short, I lasted through boot camp but I didn’t have what it took to wait for him to come home again. So our romance ended with a letter.

It was 10 years ago; November seventh, 2003 when I got the email that said, “Is this the same Lynda Smith?” When he later asked, “What are you doing?” my response was “leaving a bad job and a bad relationship” He said, “Why don’t you come up to Alaska?” and I did. We knew that we had unfinished business. He met me in the airport with twenty-two red and pink roses (one for each year we had been apart) and a fur coat – it was winter in Alaska.

When we saw each other we both started running. he was trying to video me but dropped the camera to his side as the microphone of the still rolling camera recorded “oh my God.” We embraced, in the middle of the isle until security asked us to move. We gathered our things, I donned the fur and we walked – or should I say floated – outside to the parking area. Just like in high school he opened my door, helped me in and as I shook off the cool night air, he appeared in the driver’s seat of the Land Cruiser.

As if there had never been a day missed, our hands met on the console and our fingers interlaced. The moment our fingers found each other, we both gasped for air. The feeling of our hands together took both our breath away. Apparently every handhold for 22 years was unconsciously compared to that handhold. It was as though our hands found home. Once we found our breath, we kissed again. It was a long, hard, welcome-home kiss.

Now thirty-two years later as I type this we are traveling in Koko (our home on wheels) to set up in Breckenridge, Colorado for the ski season. He just asked me “how do you like our A-Frame” my response… “I think I‘ll adjust.” No, Koko isn’t exactly an A-Frame, I think maybe she is better.

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

We will spend the majority of the winter here in Breckenridge with our Epic Ski Pass. The Epic gives us access to several ski resorts in Colorado but also 2 in California and four in Europe – should we choose to go there. The month of December we will fly down to Belize where we will SCUBA dive the Blue Hole, tour the Mayan ruins in Guatemala, go hiking, cave tubing, zip lining, you name it.

And then? In January back here to finish out the ski season before meandering our way to the Florida Keys for more SCUBA diving.  We couldn’t do that sort of thing if we had a traditional A-Frame. So yes, I think I will adjust to our “A-Frame”

This dream took 33 years to bring to fruition. Let’s create another one that is 32 years in the making. But this time, lets enjoy all those years together. I love you, Babe.

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

Romping through Colorado

Well, we left our rig behind in San Diego, so we could do an inexpensive (relatively speaking) trip to Aspen, which, buy the way, was GORGEOUS!  Lynda met people in the NAFA organization (National Association for Fixed Annuities) and made some headway in her latest endeavors….

In the meantime, yours truly was checking into ski boot parts.. seems my heels on my 2002 Tecnica Icons

2002 Tecnica Icons

2002 Tecnica Icons

are WAY over due for replacement. Last ski shop said they would not work with heels that worn.. So I could either try and find heel replacements, or new boots… Decisions Decisions..  But cost wise, new heels (if I could actually find them) would be the least expensive way to go… but! BUT! BUT! New boots have NEWER technology.. (as do the skis) and I am just itching to rent some out and see how they fit.. (or see how the new skis ski)… Ah well, life of a Ski Bum.

and Ski Bunny.

So, the research goes on… In the meantime, the snow in Aspen was wonderful, and it looks like it may be a GRAND ski season. the RV site we have picked out just ROCKS… hot tub, indoor pool, cable TV (which I could care a less about, BUT it may have cable internet) and that would be GREAT. So with 4 or 5 mountains to pick from, the ability to ski 5-6 days a week?

Priceless

Just hoping my body can keep up with my attitude…

Included are a few pics of the RV resort and other miscellaneous places along the way

Tiger Run RV Resort

Tiger Run RV Resort

Not a SNOW car!

Not a SNOW car!

SNOW!

SNOW!

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

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