Adventures For Free

Bucket List Adventures for Free

I Left it All on China Wall

China Wall

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Being a Jeep lover and an adrenaline junkie it should come as no surprise my eyes lit up when I heard our Jeep dealership sponsored Jeep Trail Rides periodically throughout the year. They would pick the trail, send the invite and lead the rally to the 4 wheeling adventure of the day. The best part was they would then carefully lead you through the steps of breaking in your Jeep on a real deal jaw breaking 4-wheel drive trail Colorado Style. White knuckling was considered just part of the initiation process for me.

China Wall is one of those trails that if you are a newbie can seem fairly intimidating and depending on the amount of snow received in the previous winter or the power of the spring run offs, the rocky, rutted and steeply angled trail can leave the more faint at heart trembling. The day we tackled it was rougher than normal according to a few Jeep veterans, but by then we were committed because the trail is so narrow once you start you can’t really go back until you have done the scary stuff.

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There must have been 30 Jeeps that day all creeping along the trail like an army of ants dutifully following a leader. One by one we took a deep breath and putting the game for anything Wrangler in 4 wheel drive Low I excitedly pushed the gas pedal and took my turn. This was it, now I was committed, like it or not, now I had to push on no matter what came next.

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Anticipation can be a good thing and a bad thing. That day it was a bit of both for me! This was what I’d always wanted to do, and this was a perfect way to test the waters so to speak, but like anything else that you have never done before, I had a case of the nervous jitters anyway. I had recruited my youngest daughter as my adventure co-pilot that day, she was torn between admitting she was excited, maintaining her teenager life- is-so-boring stance, and a tad of fear that she was with her mother instead of her father for this particular adventure. When I took one last look at her before we started the steep assent up China Wall I thought I could see fear in her eyes, I grinned and faked a round of rousing confidence and said, “Here goes nothing!”

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I don’t think I convinced her I had things under control exactly. Nevertheless, onward we drove. Up, up, and up.

On the right the trail dropped very suddenly into a deep gully. The trail was only one vehicle wide, very rocky and with a Jeep Wrangler suspension we bounced up and down, right and left and everything in-between. Rowdy, the Golden Retriever hung out in the back and seemed to be enjoying the rib, rattling ride up more than anyone else, but then again, he’s a Golden Retriever and is game for anything!

The steeper it went the rougher it got. With no idea what to expect next and knowing I was totally committed to following through, if only because there was no earthly way to turn around and go back at this point, I was like a fighter pilot on full alert, half scared to death, and half excited like a kid waiting for Santa!

At the top of the first stretch things calmed down a bit, the trail wound around the Aspens and Ponderosa Pines, but at least here you could see more than the spare tire of the Jeep in front of you so you could get some perspective.

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I relaxed and took it all in including a deep breath of fresh mountain air. Feeling instantly more confident, it was about at this point in the adventure I started feeling pretty proud of myself for jumping into something I’d always wanted to do, but had never gotten around to actually doing! Even more pleased with myself because I was doing this one on my own with out having the comfort of my very capable husband by my side. Under normal circumstances, he’d be here and he’d be driving, which would allow me to just sit back and enjoy the ride and not worry about all those pesky details like not leaving the bottom of the Wrangler on the trail or God forbid roll the thing and crush the life out of my child and myself! But reality was wicked and he was out of state working a new job and if I was going to do this I was going to have to pull out those dusty big girl panties and just do it myself. With confidence oozing out of every pore by now, I felt good! “Life was good! Would you just look at me and what I am doing,” I thought.

About then things took a dramatic turn for real. Suddenly, the cute little caravan of Jeep Wranglers came to a quick stop. There were big boulders on all sides of us and the trail had been snaking up and around for quite awhile. I waited. Soon curiosity got the better of me and I jumped out and snapped a few cool pictures to prove I really did this badass trail. As the curiosity started to take over I wandered up the trail, passing a half dozen or more Jeeps all waiting patiently for whatever came next.

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Then I saw it. Right there in front of me the trail took a sharp ninety-degree turn to the right and then just dropped. Before my wondering eyes I could see a dozen of the Jeep dealership staff all standing around on various sides of the trail helping guide and direct the poor sap whose turn it was, as he tried to navigate the simultaneous turn and drop of the trail. To complicate matters, there had been a lot of run off that spring and the trail was deeply washed away and rutted, leaving huge rocks exposed right in the middle of the road.

Each driver had to carefully position their vehicle at the start in just the right spot so that when they inched forward the vehicle could both clear the nasty rock below them and still be in a spot so that when the Jeep rocked forward it did not fall into the next series of rocks. The men on the side would squat down and watch the Jeep as it inched it forward bit by bit until it finally cleared one hurdle and pushed on to make it past the next one.

“Holy crap!” I apologize for the language but that is honestly all I could think at this point. Suddenly, my big idea to go 4-wheeling in the mountains seemed about the stupidest thing I had ever come up with. Desperately I looked around for a way out.

There was none. Jeeps were lined up before mine as far as I could see and as far behind as I could see. I scanned the crowd for a sympathetic face. Maybe someone would do this for me? Mostly I saw my own fear reflected back at me in the other drivers, but a couple of the more seasoned drivers just grinned an ornery grin back at me and one even laughed and told me everything would be just fine, ya right!

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I watched in horror as the six Jeeps before me all inched their way past the obstacle. Some did better than others, many of them sounded like they were leaving thousands of dollars of variously important Jeep parts behind as they scraped along the rock. I swear one even looked like it was going to roll over because the driver got too far to the right side.

The moment came, I had no choice to but to assume my position in the drivers seat and pull forward. My daughter was speechless as reality set in for her, hell even the dog layed down, as if he couldn’t bear to see what was coming next.

When my beautiful black Wrangler with only 25,000 miles on it took the lead spot I was pretty sure there would be nothing left of it by the time this day ended. Motherhood responsibilities took over and I kicked my daughter out and made her stand on the sidelines, presumably to take the pictures, but honestly, I viewed it as my last show of love for a child who would soon be motherless! At least I would save my baby!

I stuck my head out the window and did a hasty confession to the Jeep staffer charged with motivating me to push the accelerator and launch my own death fall.

“Um, hi, I um, have no idea what the HELL I am doing! Are you sure I have to go this way? “ I uttered as fast as I could.

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“You will be just fine. Just follow my signals and only watch me,” he answered. I looked around. I could suddenly see a potential problem. A dozen men stood all around me ready to offer helpful advice. “Just watch him,” I repeated to my self.

Deep breath, ok, I tentatively pushed the gas. Nothing happened because the tires were up against rocks and I had not given the vehicle enough juice to go up and get on the first rock. I tried again, still very fearful to give it too much gas and launch myself like a rocket to a surefire death.

It took about a half dozen tries with my eyes locked into whomever he was standing beside me waving me on. Finally, the Jeep lurched up and forward and I instantly hit the breaks.

“Turn the wheels all the way this way,” he said. I complied.

“Now go forward until I say stop” he said. I complied.

Then my stomach hit the floor, I think Rowdy passed out, and I threw up a little in my mouth, because all of a sudden the Jeep rocked forward and to the right. My right wheel had dropped into the vast hole between the big boulders. As this happened, my back rear tire went airborne. I was certain this was it. My husband was going to kill me once he found out what I was doing. Then it dawned on me it wouldn’t matter because I was already going to be dead!

“It’s ok,” mister whoever he was said from behind me.

I am sure the look on my face was priceless about now because I could not figure out how in the HELL things were ok right now! Eyes as wide as saucers I stared at him, ready to bolt like a scared deer, if I could only figure out what way to go.

“You just need to give it gas now. You might here a scraping sound, but I will tell you if you need to stop. OK?” Mystery man directed me.

With no other option in sight I complied, but to say I might hear a scraping sound is putting it mildly. I heard only ear shattering, this must be expensive as hell scrapping sounds for what seemed like hours as my Jeep crept forward.

Finally after what seemed a lifetime I heard what’s his name say enthusiastically “You did it!”

“I did? Really? Are you sure? Did I mess anything up on my Jeep?” I asked.

“No you are good, I swear!” He grinned back at me!

Wave after wave of relief washed over me! I searched the crowd for my daughter and found her riveted to the sidelines. I am pretty sure she will never admit it but I hope secretly she was even just a tiny bit impressed at what she witnessed me do that day because I was scared to death and I did it anyway!

Another bucket list adventure for the books for me, but the lesson learned is that no great thing ever came from my comfort zone. I was the only female that day driving and I realized just how scary life could be when you can’t see what’s ahead in life, but maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. When I think back on this day, if I had known what I had to do to get past that part of the trail, I know darn well I would have chickened out. Because the trail and life don’t work that way though, once I made the commitment and get on the trail in the drivers seat, I had to keep going even through the unknown parts where I had butterflies in my stomach and even when I could finally see the biggest fear I had to face. Just commit and do it.

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So my friend, what’s next on your list?

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Do You Look Like a Hooker Too?

One day as I was wandering the quant little town in the Midwest full of mysterious antique shops, bed and breakfast inns and other little shops I strolled into one called the White Horse Antique shop. As I pulled open the old wooden door I was met with the crisp clean smells of handmade candles mingled with a strange spicy older smell, one of sage, old oak and wool. Interesting combination. The cheerful silver haired proprietor smiled an award-winning grin and greeted me with a welcoming “are you a hooker?”

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“Say what?” I thought, a bit taken aback.

“Well, no.” was my reply.

“Oh you look like you’d be one of my hookers!” she quipped in a friendly way.

Not sure if I should laugh, deny it adamantly, or maybe run for the door, I hesitated for just a second.

“I teach primitive rug hooking and have a group of several hundred women who shop here for their rug hooking supplies. You looked like you might be a hooker!” She explained, as if that made perfect sense.

By now I was more than a little amused and intrigued and took my time wandering the tiny old rooms of the vintage Victorian cottage turned into antique shop and rug hooking supply business. As I entered the back room I had to side step around Samuel, the resident mutt who was sunning himself in the afternoon sunlight taking a nap in front of the register counter. He wagged his tail at me, but other than that didn’t bother to move until he made eye contact with me and could sense I too was a dog lover. Then he jumped to his feet making his 12 years appear more like 1 or 2 with his enthusiasm. I petted him for several minutes as I took in the assortment of silver jewelry, colorful scarf’s, primitive rungs, unique primitive antiques and shelves of beautifully colored wool.

Taken in by the charm of the place instantly, and the warm smile of the owner and teacher, I too, signed up for the next class. I had no idea I wanted to be a hooker until I strolled into her store and was instantly beguiled by the wondrous items covering the walls.

A couple months later I returned for my afternoon class and was delighted when after meeting at the shop to select my rug kit I was escorted back to her private residence half a block away for my actual lesson. Samuel the mutt strolled along with us to the house. The house was as charming as the shop, also full of antiques and beautifully done rugs. We set up class in a small but sun kissed sunroom converted to a dining room and over the next 3 hours I was patiently taught how to work the burlap with my hooking tool and pull the wool through the small openings creating a loop and slowly filling in the blanks of my first rug. At break time we were even treated to an intoxicatingly delicious homemade cherry pie a la mode.

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It was a delightful afternoon and I have discovered while I might not be a natural hooker I do enjoy spending my evenings working on my new craft!

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Look in the mirror; do you look like a hooker too?

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So I ask my friend, what’s next on your list?

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Shit Happens Get Over It!

Shit Happens Get Over It!

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It happens to everyone, nature calls. The question I had to ask is what exactly happens when I am enjoying the great outdoors and nature calls? I don’t want to seem look a goody too shoes here and I understand the basic mechanics but the question begs to be answered.

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Now I agree I had bigger problems that I should have been worried about like where would we sleep in the great outdoors? What kind of critters lived out there and how many of them might be interested in a toasty warm sleeping bag and excellent cuddlier? How difficult were the trails and would I get blisters on my feet? Would I be able to keep pace with the group? All these were relevant questions but the one that nagged me the most was where was I going to poop?

Suburban soccer mom’s are not supposed to worry about these things, at least according to convention, that is if we stay in the safety zone of PTA meetings, football and soccer practice, bible study, grocery shopping, work, dishes and general family nurturing the quandary of where and how to poop and pee in the wild would simply not come up. However, I am a self-professed adrenaline junkie, and as my husband describes me, at best a complicated woman.

See, I just can’t color between the lines. I want the best of both words so I flip back and forth between the world of my adventures and momville. Because of this I have to ask the questions no one else seems to want to ask.

When I interview a guide for a potential bucket list adventure I tend to be direct and cut to the chase pretty quickly. Let’s get to the meat of the situation, “where am I going to go potty and what conditions do I need to be able to handle?” I timidly toss out there.

Once I get the facts I can then begin to process the situation. Usually the unknown is worse than the reality. I like a good adventure, just not a bodily function surprise. It causes me stress, because I am a 50-year-old mother of three, I have the bladder of a pea and the minute you tell me I can’t go, face it, I have to go! The more I try to forget how bad I have to go the worse it gets so I figure I might as well put it on the table and let these young guides know what they are dealing with, heck it only seems fair.

On a recent epic adventure to Utah which would entail four days and three nights of back country camping in the desert I had to face the reality that I would be peeing behind a lot of rocks and at some point in time I was going to have to do the decidedly unladylike duty of pooping in the wild.

“Or dear Lord” was all I could think.

When I finally got the courage up to ask my guide and share my concerns with him we bonded instantly as he kindly and yet directly outlined the options. What won me over however was the sweet way he took my concerns, and those of the other women joining the adventure, to heart and came up with most enchanting solution ever!

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On the first day of the trip as we set up camp he presented us with a homemade Homer bucket complete with a toilet seat, garbage bag liners, kitty litter, zip lock bags, hand sanitizer and even a toilet paper holder! Then just like a hero on a white horse he headed into the bluffs and located the perfect three-sided shelter of rocks and proceed to set up our throne worthy of a queen! He had thought of everything!

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When I invited women to join on the backcountry adventure several had turned me down because of “other” things, obstacles like work, family, travel time, expense, back aches and more were listed as why they couldn’t join the fun. It wasn’t until I probed a little deeper did I get an honest answer here and there. The honest truth was they couldn’t imagine pooping in the wild but I have to say it really wasn’t that bad and with the improvised system created by our ingenious and intrepid guide it was practically the Taj Mahal!

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Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from the adventure of a lifetime. Face it everyone poops, and shit happens! Get over it, deal with it and move on! Time is wasting!!

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Bucketlistblogger Needs to Refill Her Own Bucket

Bucketlistblogger Needs to Refill her Own Bucket

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It’s a simple pleasure, one that is far too often taken for granted, not even noticed in our busy lives, as we rush here and there, but a Colorado Rocky Mountain sunset can be as spectacular as anything I’ve ever seen. It can also help me refill my own energy bucket!

As a busy business owner, my daily quest to share my passion for health and fitness, and help clients in their own sports nutrition journey, takes a fair amount of energy. So does my greatest joy being a mother and wife. Sometimes I too, can start to feel overwhelmed with to do lists, grocery shopping, meal prep, work, and family obligations, not to mention my own fitness goals and training. Just because my husband and I own a sports nutrition store doesn’t mean we aren’t real people and deal with the same day to day challenges you do.

Periodically, when my own energy starts to feel low, I have to remember to pause and give thanks for the simple pleasures in life, like watching a Colorado sunset, somehow it helps me fill back up my own energy bucket.

This might sound strange, but I believe we give to others from our own “bucket of energy” and like a simple math equation, if you give away without refilling your own bucket you are soon going to have a problem and your bucket will be totally empty leaving you nothing to give to others. How we all refill our own energy buckets is a very personal thing. I’ve been a slow learner over the years with this lesson, but I am starting to get it. I have learned that if I stop every now and then and give to myself my bucket stays full and I have the passion and energy to give to others. For me, refilling my bucket can be as simple as an afternoon nap, a ride in the mountains with my family, a hike or simply slowing down to enjoy a Colorado sunset.

It may not be fancy, and it may not be large, but my patio is just big enough for two rockers and a cup of hot coffee in the morning or a small glass of red wine in the evening. My patio perfectly frames my front seat view of Pikes Peak and the front range. I really couln’t ask for more.

While rocking on my patio in the evening, I see the blue Colorado skies as the bright ornages, saucy pinks and teal blues mix against the black outline of the mountains, like a bright box of sun melted Crayons.

When the sun sets on a summer evening I love to watch the sky light up behind the mountains, casting a fast moving kaleidoscope of colors as darkness begins to fall. Soon the sky lights up in a spectrum of rainbow colors, blue as far as the eye can see. As darkness falls a calmness settles over me, allowing me to end my busy day with a simple ritual that always seems to set my day right, even if it went wrong! It helps me refill my bucket.

Simple, pure, peaceful. It helps me remember why I am doing all this in the first place! As night sets I retire knowing I am ready for another day.

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So my friend I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Butterflies and Horse Shit

Butterflies and Horse Shit

Butterflies are delicate, beautiful creatures that effortlessly seem to float in the air dancing from wildflower to wildflower.

They seem perfect, dancing only in the wind with each other like the new found love between lovers.

Newlywed love is like this, it gathers attention where it goes, it wraps the lovers in a cloak of intimacy and makes the world seem shiny, new and beautiful.

Last week as we vacationed with great friends and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in the Rocky Mountains we embarked on a hike to a waterfall and mountain stream. My love for wildflowers was indulged as I found myself on the trail winding slowly higher and lined with Columbines, Primrose and Chickweed. The farther from the road we ventured the more butterflies seemed to dance around us around each new bend.


The combination of fresh mountain air, tall Ponderosa Pines tickling my senses, majestic peaks, charming birds and flirty butterflies brought out my romantic side. The perfumed mountain valley lined with wildflowers was intoxicating. Caught up in the moment it was easy to feel the love of great friends, and a charming husband, in fact, it was perfect and felt like a scene in a movie “The Sound of Music” that is until I stepped in a big pile of horse shit unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the trail. Black flies hungrily circling like miniature vultures. I found the irony along the trail amusing to say the least!

“What the heck?” I thought as I jumped off the trail into the tall grass.

“Where did all this come from?” I questioned my friends. “How can this perfect scene be marred by something so stinky and smelly?”

That’s when it hit me – what a metaphor for married life! Life isn’t perfect – it can be beautiful one minute and then messy, stinky and even smelly the next!

Hopefully you’ll be blessed to fall in love and share your life with your best friend but take this advice, sometimes your path life will be smooth and breathtakingly, almost painfully beautiful, and sometimes, usually when you least expect it, life is nothing more than a pile of poo!

Surviving it together and still liking each other at the end of the day takes patience, courage and a good sense of humor, just remember to laugh along the way, stop and smell the flowers and watch where you are stepping!


Celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary was a great bucketlist adventure!

So my friends, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven

Photographer Unknown

Restlessness
Recently, in a restless moment, I decided to dive into a challenging item on my Bucket list. Somehow restlessness = challenge in my line of thought. Maybe I just needed to have another one of those “let’s see what you are made of” adventures just to give me the courage to keep fighting the daily challenges of selling a house, parenting a middle school child, starting a new business and running a church! Believe me, each one of these is a major undertaking in itself, and lately, I feel like I am working my tail off, but not getting where I want to be. This is frustrating. Anyway, I think that’s why I decided it was time to hike the Incline in Colorado Springs.

Friendly Conversations
A week or so ago, I was chatting with co-workers and my boss and mentioned I wanted to do the Incline this summer. We left the conversation at that and moved on to more pressing matters like electrical pumps and finance committee reports and meetings, until Thursday around 4:00 pm when my boss walked in from meetings and asked “what are you doing at 7:00 am tomorrow?” Talk about a loaded question! I paused. “I don’t know, what do you want me to be doing?” I timidly threw back at him, trying to leave myself an out in case he was looking for “volunteers” for some kind of major spring cleaning activity around the church.

“How about hiking the Incline with Father Mark?” he asked.

“Whoa” I thought, “I didn’t see that one coming. Tomorrow at 7:00 am was only 15 hours away! Who is Father Mark? I have work to be doing! My daughter has no school what do I do with her? Can I really make it up to the top of the Incline? I hope this Father Mark guy is a patient kind of man!” All these thoughts raced across my mind in the next nanosecond.

“Hmmmmm, I don’t know, can I call you tonight and let you know.” I tired to leave the door just a tiny bit open in case I experienced a major panic attack.

I went home, conducted a detailed research of the Incline just to make sure I knew what I was getting into. I found some beautiful pictures online and a few really intimidating ones. My reaction was that you should almost be tied off with a rope to be on that kind of a slope, no safety net or belaying friend below to save your tail if you fell. I made my decision. I called my friend and begged her to join me in this misery fest!

Father Mark
Next came the awkward call to Father Mark. He has never met me or even seen a picture of me, he has no idea who I am, what kind of shape I am in, or how old and decrepit I am. Talk about a man of faith!

I gave him a call and started asking questions like what kind of shoes, is there snow at the top, what are the temps, how do you get down if you get to the top, do you haul water, where and when would we meet, the easy stuff. Then I tossed him the hand grenade of all questions. “How long do you think it will take a first-timer?” I realize how unfair of a question that was, I mean, he has no idea if I have ever hiked to my own mail box, much less done anything more challenging. “I would say at least an hour, more if you stop to rest,” he answered. (Heck yes, I am going to have to stop and rest, I thought) He said he has friends that he does the Incline with that are runners and they do it in 28 minutes. He however, admitted that it took him 45 minutes to do.

That was it; we struck a deal and made our arrangements. Now all I had to do was get some sleep.

Next morning Susan and I hit the road at 5:45 am and met Father Mark at the base of the trail. We grabbed our gear, Camelback, jacket, snack, toilet paper, camera, phone etc and off we went. It wasn’t until we got to the first set of steps that I realized Father Mark had hauled nothing. He was going very light. Hmmmmm. Fighting the urge to question him about his choices (I believe in the Boy Scout mantra of Always Be Prepared) we forged ahead.

As I stood at the base of the stairs and looked up, it was impossible not to be intimidated. The old cog railroad left an impressive scar on Pikes Peak Mountain from the base straight up as far as the eye could see. The top was currently cloaked in a light fog, so the stairs just sort of disappeared into the sky. It was striking. It was a Stairway to Heaven. (“Stairway to Heaven, Led Leppelin, 1971) How cool.

Next, I noticed the little bitty dots of moving people on the stairs. It was 7:00 am on a Friday morning, and I was amazed at the large number of other crazy people dreaming of overcoming the Incline.

Faced with only two choices at this time, either start going up or run for the parking lot. I took a deep breath, the last time I did so without my lungs being on fire, and put one foot in front of the other.

At this point, my dear friend Susan, mentioned to us that we would be going up 5000 steps, gaining 2000 feet elevation in just over one mile. The majority of the stairs are at a 40% incline, but there are very steep parts that hit 65%. Holy Guacamole!

Reality
As we walked on, my mind began to process my new reality. Yes, it was extremely pretty, the stairs were blanketed on each side by a veritable forest of Christmas trees. Tall Ponderosa Pines everywhere were stretching to the sky and gently swaying in the breeze. Huge boulders were randomly scatted on the hillside, adding to the amazing beauty of this place.

The people on this trail were interesting. They were all friendly and most seemed kind. Each was faced with their individual demons to face down on this journey to the sky, so most walked on in a determined, thoughtful, and consistent, paced manner. By nature of the steep percentage of grade, the people on the trail that day all had assumed the same posture. They leaned into the stairway, trying to get their equilibrium in balance with the slope of the mountain. They looked down at the trail immediately in front of them, intent on taking the next thoughtful step. The reality is that you had to do this. The steps were not created to be a nice, easy, winding stairway with beautiful curved banisters, that would allow you to stop and enjoy the sights along the way, and keep you safe at the same time.

No, this trail was engineered for a cog railroad supply train. It was created for function; it had a job to do. The steps were old, cut railroad ties, nailed into place with huge steel spikes. The amount of space between the steps was uneven at best, some required huge strides, and others equally unexpectedly short. Some of the steel spikes were uneven with the ties and presented a trip hazard. The trail was not nicely covered in cement or other smooth material; it was loose gravel and slipped easily under your feet. There were no benches on the side for peaceful meditation and reflection, offering a nice respite from the journey. The spring mountain snow melt had caused deep gouges of runoff that had seriously further scarred the trail. Volunteers had attempted to shore up the really vulnerable spots with pieces of leftover wood, but at the best it looked insecure, at the worst downright dangerous.

Anything at altitude is a challenge, and anyone who has hiked even the flattest trail can tell you it is different when the air is thin and your lungs have to work overtime to bring in and process the oxygen needed to breathe. I have even hiked a trail to the top of a 14,000 ft mountain, (we call them 14’ers) but that too, is different than the Incline. On the mountain trail, the path wanders in small S curves, picking its way through the challenges of the individual mountain terrain. This trail just went straight up.

As I slowly worked my way up the mountain, I quickly realized the ticket to success. Breathe, exhale, step, lean in to protect yourself from a fatal fall backwards, watch the step you are on, and the one coming up next. If necessary, lean down, to the point you are almost on hands and knees, use your hands to pick your way up. Don’t stand up and stop to review your progress. Your blood pools and you immediately feel as if standing upright is actually leaning back. Your balance is off, and it is really easy to loose your equilibrium. The same advice goes for standing up and looking upward. It messes with your brain and your equilibrium. You feel as if you have not made any progress at all, even though you know that you have been working hard, and putting one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes, the view from this angle is distorted anyway. It can look like you are almost there and when you experience this “fake top” it is really discouraging, as you climb over the crest, thinking you will be greeted with the beauty of the views of the summit, and instead, are faced with a second,, seemingly endless trail of stairs.

I am not trying to make this sound impossible. It isn’t impossible. I am also not trying to make it sound easy. It isn’t easy in any way.

I did not expect to be so struck by an almost surreal spiritualness on this journey. But time and time again, I was hit by the revelation that this adventure was a striking metaphor for my life as a Christian, trying to follow Jesus Christ. I am buying a Stairway to Heaven, like my favorite rock song of all time says. I don’t get to “buy” with money, my way into heaven, or anything else that truly matters, I have to earn it, all by myself, one step at a time. I am buying my stairway with thoughtful intention and the dedication I put into focusing my efforts on this path.

The Incline, to me, visually represents my own personal Stairway to Heaven. It is not impossible, but it is not easy. The journey is beautiful, but not paved in gold; it sparkles in a simple, real kind of way. I was experiencing God’s beauty and raw simplicity at the same time. In my view, free will sometimes makes it hard to follow God. God gives me the free will to make my own choices, but then I have to live with the consequences. If I had chosen to run back to the parking lot, when I first gazed up at the base of the stairway, I would never have had this experience, I would not have had this personal revelation, nor would I have experienced the knowledge, that I had traveled a difficult road and made it to the top.

Likewise, I would not have had the revelation that God does not promise a life of riches, or even a stairway made of pretty railings, and beautiful carpet beneath our feet. God promises a way to heaven. The reality, is that the way is challenging in ways we cannot expect, the progress is hard to see along the journey, there are false summits along the way. Just when you think you’ve made it God offers something a little more to overcome.

Continuing with the revelations I experienced that day, is that free will is dangerous. One of the most significant struggles I experienced was at the halfway point. The Barr trail is the safest and most logical way back down. The actual Incline is way to steep, narrow and slippery to retreat the way you came up. The problem, is that the Barr trail runs parallel to the Incline, and it only intersects at the midpoint and the summit. In other words, you can bail out at the midpoint, and go back down, knowing you had a vigorous and challenging hike, but you have only gone halfway. What you can’t do, is go on up the Incline past this point, and then give up. The only way down is up, once you’ve made the decision to keep going. That was a difficult point for me.

I struggled. I came to climb the Incline; it was harder than I thought, in ways, but easier, than I thought in others. At the midpoint, I was struggling, but I was doing it. I wanted to go to the top, but this was really hard. Maybe I should cut my losses and take the out at the mid –point? Maybe I should train for a few months, and come back and try it again when I was more prepared. Maybe, I didn’t really even want to get to the top. Did I really need to reach this summit? Maybe it wasn’t really all that important to me. Maybe I could find something easier. I seriously second-guessed myself. My mind and my heart waged an internal war. In the end, I made the commitment to continue to the top, no matter what it took, to get there. Having no other way out but to finish the goal you set for yourself is really scary.

Stairway to Heaven
At that point it was clear, I had no extra energy to continue this inner battle. If I was going to continue to the top, it was going to take every bit of physical, mental and spiritual strength I had. It was at this point, that I finally let go of all this other stuff. I only thought of the end goal, I certainly did not look back. I think this is often how life goes for me. I knew I did not have the luxury of going further and then saying “ah this was a bad idea, I need to get myself our of this situation.” Instead, I had to make the commitment to simply get to the top of my Stairway to Heaven.

Once I let go of all these doubts, I went on automatic pilot. I focused on the task at hand. I stopped trying to chat with my fellow hikers, I stopped letting my mind wander. The fact is, it was at this point the trail got really hard. It became consuming to carefully pick your way up. As I got lost in this section, I found myself surprised when I realized how far I had actually come, progress I had made with out all the internal doubt and noise. Very interesting.

In ways it was harder than I thought, but in ways it was easier. I had friends along the way, and Father Mark was very sweet. The higher we climbed the more he stayed by my side, quietly talking about this and that, keeping my mind off the struggle. He was there to place a hand behind my back, more than once, as if he was there to catch me if I fell. When I had to stop to breathe, he would provide a piece of history or other information so that I did not have to feel compelled to talk and recover at the same time.

It hit me as we finally neared the top, by breaking this journey down to single thoughtful steps, and by committing myself to this journey, I had found a peace and courage with my goals in life. One of the reasons I came on this adventure was because I was feeling restless, I had been working very hard in my everyday life, but was not feeling the success of all my efforts. I was starting to doubt myself and question myself. I was letting free will get in the way of my success. The Incline helped me get squared away mentally and spiritually, once again. It was just what I needed. I felt like it clarified, for me, why I was living my life the way I was, and God revealed to me in a very visual way that he is not only there right beside me on the journey, he is there to catch me if I fall, and if I just keep focused, on just what I have do to, at that time, I will in fact, achieve my goals.

I am confident this experience came to me on a beautiful Colorado April morning just when I needed it the most. God showed me I would always have just what I need; at the time I need it the most, on my journey.

I am glad I went. I am glad I climbed to the top of my Stairway to Heaven. It renewed my faith in my own spiritual journey.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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No Mental, No Dental!

Last weekend my sister came for a visit and as we sat drinking coffee early one morning on my deck she innocently mentioned that she had recently just discovered her new health insurance lacked Mental health coverage and Dental coverage, I about spit out my coffee, as the realization hit me full force. This was a problem, no mental, no dental; this would not do, not at all.

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I immediately mentally adjusted our weekend schedule. If she had no mental, then I would have to provide a little mental adjustment for her of my own. If she lacked dental, I would have to take that into consideration also. Not good.

I immediately started planning; we had much to do and very little time to do it in!

I whipped out my iphone and with a few keystrokes had us scheduled for a little giggle fest-a pole dancing class on Friday night. Then I checked the weather and blocked out all day Saturday for a much needed mountain drive through Estes Park to do some fall leaf peeping, followed by a Sunday adrenaline rush with a little ziplining adventure at Royal Gorge.

Estes Park is a truly amazing place, especially in late September, for some reason the animals that reside in the park are much more visible in the late fall, not to mention the way the crisp mountain air bites at your cheeks and golden hews of the Aspen’s dance on the hillside in their full fall glory.


Vicki did not remember visiting the park when we were young kids so each twist and turn of the road was a happy surprise for her. The view of Trail Ride Road slowly winding its way up the mountain to the Continental Divide provided her with amazing vista’s of rugged mountain ranges, field after field of fiery red and golden yellow leaves dancing in the wind and wild mountain lakes tucked into the sides of massive mountains in the distance as far as the eye could see.

There is something about a fall drive in the Rockies that helps clear your mind, replenish your batteries and fill your lungs with enough fresh crisp air to last all winter long.

We managed to see Elk munching in the yards and ditches of the town of Estes Park, as comfortable with the tourists as the snow on the mountains. We caught a glimpse of a large male Moose grazing just behind the tree line and we saw the most amazing mountain vista’s that grew more impressive with each curve of the highway.

Along the way we sang to vintage classic rock and enjoyed the ride with her windows down in her very cool red Jeep. We sang along with Bob Segar and Bon Jovi. We talked about our dreams, our fears and our struggles. We laughed and ate sandwiches and sipped our Diet Cokes and we concentrated on the simple joy of breathing in the fresh woodsy smells of the mountains. That was all we had to do. No problems to solve, no fears to overcome, no deep revelations to discover. We just drove around a beautiful mountain park in the height of a gorgeous September fall day with the windows down and the music up in her cool red Jeep. Life was so simple. Life was good. We are blessed to have each other as sisters and friends.

By the end of the day, our mental therapy needs had been met and our energy levels were restored. The mental part was taken care of.

Now for the dental, I think I will send her the pictures of our glorious September Rocky Mountain drive with a package of floss and let her figure the rest out for herself.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Tribute to “Five Wishes” by Gay Hendricks

Give a Little


Today a friend shared a book with me that when I read it felt like the author was talking directly to me.  The book was called “Five Wishes” and it was written by Gay Hendricks.  The book itself is rather short, very easy to read but its message is golden in its simplicity.  The author tells a story about how one chance conversation with a stranger changed his world.  My friend said she read the book and immediately thought of me.  I read the book and was struck by how this fits in with what I am trying to do on a personal level with my bucket list and my writing.

The Book

The premise of the book is that if you were on your deathbed right now and someone asked you the question “has your life been a complete success” what would you answer.  If you answered no, what would your wish be?  The answer to that question then becomes the straightforward goal for your future.

The book was so clear and straightforward that it was a delight to read and it gave me a template for putting my goals into a clear format.

Successful Life

I sat down immediately after reading this book and to write up my “Five Wishes”.  Once I sat down and really gave it some thought it was easier and yet harder than I would have suspected. I simply did as the author advised, I pretended I was on my deathbed today and someone came in and asked me the following question, “was your life a complete success?”

The way I approached this was to start from where I am today.  I am a 47-year-old wife and mother of three.  One of my children is out of college, of my children is in college and one is still in school.

I have not only a bachelor’s degree but also a graduate degree.  I am very happily married and feel like I have a strong and positive family life.  This is what I have put all my energy into for the past 24 years and I am proud of this success.  Based upon this I would emphatically say this part of my life has been a success and I would not change a single thing. The knowledge and awareness that this part of my life was successful was powerful and it felt really good.

Opportunity for Improvement

However, if I were totally honest with myself, and if I were on my deathbed today as the author Gay Hendricks proposes, would I say my life has been a complete and total success?  Hmmm..  powerful thoughts to ponder indeed.

It does not take a lot of pondering for me to admit that there is room for improvement in my life. It hits you kind of on the head when you think about it this way.  None of us have any guarantees; we do not know what the future brings or how long we have on this earth.  The answer becomes very clear to me.  If I were on my deathbed I would have to say parts of my life were very successful but there were also parts that were not.

Conclusion

Conclusion-my life is not completely successful.

Once you have come to the conclusion your life is not completely successful it is hard not to feel the energy rising inside of you to do something to change that and thus make your life successful.

Writing my Five Wishes

I decided to do as the author proposed and pretend these questions were asked of me on my deathbed and then write my answers in three different formats. The author has you write it first in past tense, as if your life were over and it was not successful.  Then he has you rewrite it into an “I wish” format, presumably to motivate you.  Last is to write it into present tense as an action statement.

Attempting to follow the authors instructions, I  wrote it in the past tense as if my life was over and I had not been successful.  This made me feel kind of bad.  When I shared what I wrote with my family this format elicited strong emotions from them indeed.

Next, I would rephrase this statement to “I wish I had…” thus opening the door for me to make changes since I am thankfully, not actually on my deathbed.

The last step is to rewrite this into a present tense action statement as if my life were a complete success.  This final revision then becomes your action statement, goal or motto.  It does not matter what you call it.  What matters is that you commit to it and take small but active steps to make it a reality.   After reflecting I came up with the following:

Wish One

My life was not a success because I never created a highly successful, creative and profitable career that was all my own and allowed me to make a fantastic salary and help others.

I wish I had been able to do a better job balancing family and work in order to be able to put energy into creating a highly successful, creative and profitable career that was all my own and allowed me to make a fantastic salary and help others.

My life is a success because I allowed myself to put to energy into my career without guilt and now I am enjoying a highly successful, creative and profitable career, parts of it are all my own and part of it I am sharing with my husband and my daughter and I am making a fantastic salary and I use that to help others.

Wish Two

My life was not a success because I did not allow myself to develop my own talents and then share them with the world.  I believe God gives each of us a special gift and it is our responsibility to develop that gift and use it for good.  I do not feel like I ever completely did this.

I wish had not been so one dimensional in my focus and had allowed myself to develop my own talents so that I could share them with the world.  I believe God gives each of us a special gift and it is our responsibility to develop that gift and use it for good.  I feel like I put so much emphasis on family that I neglected this in myself.

My life is a success because I changed from a one dimensional focus to a three dimensional focus and in doing so I allowed myself to discover and then develop my own talents so that I could share them with the world and honor God’s will.

Wish Three

My life was not a success because I don’t know for a fact that I  found a way to teach my children to create the life they want.  I believe happiness is a choice and no matter what our circumstances are we have the ability to choose happiness and make the world a better place.

My wish is that I had been able to teach my children to create the life they want.  I believe happiness is a choice and no matter what our circumstances are we have the ability to choose happiness and make the world a better place.  I once heard this called being a “creator and not a victim.”  A victim spends their life reacting to life; a creator creates the life they want.  I wish I had taught that lesson to my children.

My life is a success because I did teach my children through my example to create the life they want and to choose happiness over unhappiness, to choose to be a creator and not a victim no matter what happens to you in life. They learned that by choosing to be a creator you help others and in doing so make the world a better place.

Wish Four

My life was not a success because I never created a lasting way to give to those less fortunate and help make the world a better place.

I wish I had been able to create a permanent and lasting way to give to those less fortunate and help make the world a better place.

My life is a success because I allowed myself to put energy into creating a permanent and lasting legacy to give to those less fortunate, and helps make the world a better place. I stopped thinking I had to solve the world’s biggest problems and instead focused on a smaller problem and then changed my perspective and decided that even though I was just one woman I did have to power to make a difference.

Wish Five

I have to admit I am still working on what my fifth wish should, could and might be. I will get back to you soon on this!

Moving Forward

After reading the book and putting myself through the same steps I experienced a strange sense of awakening.  When Gay Hendricks, the author of “Five Wishes” states that this simple conversation created an awareness that he was not already completely successful in his life.  This awareness helped motivate him to make changes and commit completely toward each of his five wishes.  I can see why that happened for the author because I feel like I have a new sense of purpose in my life.

When the author changed his perspective, he became aware of what he was and was not doing to achieve all his life goals.  He then became committed to making his wishes come true and that was when he saw things change dramatically in his world.

After reading this thought provoking book I see more clearly the areas in my life where I feel I have been completely successful and can admit that probably that success is due to the vast amount of energy I consistently put toward that goal over the years.  I feel good about this success.

Likewise, I see more clearly the areas in my life where I feel improvement can be made.  I can also admit that it is possible that if I put a similar amount of energy consistently toward these new goals over the next few years I might just be surprised with the success I achieve.  This will take time and effort but wouldn’t it be cool if when I actually was on my deathbed I could look back at my life and say with confidence “my life was a complete success!”

I believe that the theme of this book fits extremely well with my own personal quest to get out of my comfort zone, experience more of life and make some of my own dreams come true.  I am going to add my five wishes to the top of my bucket list.

I encourage you to pick up the book “Five Wishes” and read it and see what your answers are, and then you too can decide if you need to change your perspective like I did.


So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Party in The Mud

Being ridiculous seems like a fairly odd thing to put on your bucketlist, but then I guess you could call this entire Bucketlist thing pretty odd, so maybe it fits.

Here is how it started, I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an employee and this is all pretty serious stuff. I mean look at it this way, I have children to raise, a marriage to maintain and friends and family who need me, I have a job to do and a household to run. I have bills to pay, errands to run, book reports to review and toilets to clean. It is hard to fit “being ridiculous” into an already packed day. Once you get all this responsibility in life it is kind of hard to just turn it off like a light switch and “be truly silly” just for the sake of being silly. It dawned on me one day that while my life was full of smiles and laughter, it might be missing pure silliness just for the sake of being silly. My solution was to put it on my bucketlist and give myself permission to be nutty.

This summer has been busy beyond busy in my family. We have so much going on that I manage to get through each day and then pass out at night of exhaustion only to get up and start over again. Now, don’t get me wrong. A lot of what we have going on is really good stuff, but still, when your life is as packed as mine is right now just getting the chance to relax needs heavy duty scheduling. In a normal summer our family spends several weekends at the lake boating and camping and several weekends up in the mountains camping and playing on our dirt bikes. This summer it has been a struggle to make this happen. That is why I insisted this past weekend we stop the madness and go to the mountains. “summer is almost over” I told my husband, “if we don’t go now we won’t get it done all summer, and that is just not right!”

Thankfully, he agreed, and we shook hands on it. Not really, but we decided it was a plan.

So much for plans. Friday was nuts for both of us at work. Dan had planned to pick up Maggie and her friend around noon and head up to our favorite mountain hide-away with the camper. He’d get camp set up and Sam and I would come up after work and a much-needed stop at the grocery store. Good plan. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Dan and the girls made it as far as Morrison, which for those of you who know Colorado is about 2 miles up the mountains, when his truck started protesting. His normally heavy-duty multi-ton truck could barely go 10 miles per hour and it quickly became apparent to Dan that he had serious vehicle towing problems. He pulled over and gave the tired truck time to cool off. They tried again. And again. And again. Finally, several hours into this grand adventure he turned around and hoped that if he was headed downhill gravity would be on his side and he could go faster than 10 miles per hour. It worked for about 4 miles. Then he hit the flatlands and once again found himself crawling along as rush hour traffic roared past him 75 miles per hour.

Dan called in the reserves and summoned Sam to come pick up the girls while he took the camper back to storage and dropped his injured truck off at the repair shop. Finally, 5 hours after it all began, Dan walked in the door at home tired, and discouraged.

Looking at each other we decided we would not take defeat. We would rally Plan B. Maybe, we could borrow a truck long enough to get the camper up there? No luck, no trucks available with the right hitch. Not to be defeated, we scrambled to Plan C. Tent camping! Yes, we would resort to tent camping, whatever it took to get this adventurous family to the mountains. At this point, even the dog was getting depressed.

Without a camper we faced a few obstacles. Number one, being the lack therein, of a restroom. Dan rallied with Plan D. “We could camp at the base of Red Cone Mountain,” he announced. “Remember, it has a small campground with port-a-potties.” Yes! That was the solution we needed! A port-a potty! Dan disappeared to do some fast Internet research, only to come back a few minutes later with a beat down look on his face. “We can’t camp there. They still have Webster and Red Cone Pass closed due to a 30-foot wall of snow at the summit. They have so much run-off that the stream by the campground is dangerously high.”

Translation. We couldn’t take one clueless Golden Retriever and two adventurous 11 year olds camping by a “stream” that is now a raging river of with 32-degree water.

Plan E, back to our regular campsite far back in the mountains, we would simply have to do some serious backcountry camping in this desperate situation. That meant camping in a tent, peeing in the bushes and eating over the campfire. We looked at each other, gauging the strength in each other’s eyes and made one final pact, yes, we would do it!

After so many plan changes even we were confused. What gear would we need, where were the tents, did we still have the lantern, where was the grill, and more raced through our tired, but not defeated brains. We rearranged, unloaded and reloaded late into the night before calling it a day.

The next morning we finished up and finally rolled out of town at 10:30 am. You must realize that mere mortals would have given up long before this, but our little pack is one determined, if not sickly stubborn group, and we refused to succumb to defeat.

Two hours later we arrived and unloaded our gear. It was about then that we realized the folly of our ways. We had the necessary can of baked beans but no can opener, we had cereal but no milk or bowls to put it in, we had coffee filters but no coffee pot, we had graham crackers but no marshmallows or chocolate for smores. Looking fate squarely in the eye we said damn to it all! We will eat hot dogs on a stick and pop tarts for breakfast. We could have hamburger buns with peanut butter for lunch and feast on potato chips. Remember here troops-we are roughing it!

Along about now I made a mental shift, as a good friend puts it. I decided that no matter what we were going to have a good time. All we needed was a good attitude!

Once we unloaded all the haphazard camping gear we unloaded the toys, the three dirt bikes and the Ranger. Next we loaded up a few non-nutritious snacks and headed out to discover the trails. All it took was about 3 minutes on the gorgeous trails to put my mind back at ease. I could feel the tension roll off my shoulders. The mountains have had so much snowfall and rain this year that they were green everywhere you looked. Snow capped mountains in the distance framed luscious green valleys filled with wildflowers as far as you could see. Yes, in spite of all of our challenges, this trip was worth it. It felt good to be out here in God’s heaven.

Peace filled my heart; I felt relaxed and suddenly rejuvenated, not rushed and tired like usual. Just then we rounded the bend on the trail and my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree at the sight before my eyes. Before me on the trail lay a huge mud puddle, as wide and deep and muddy as the Mighty Mississippi. Well, not quite that wide, but it was big. Casting a glance at the little girls beside me I asked the loaded question “do you want to go around the puddle or right through it?” I innocently asked. “THROUGH IT!” they squealed with delight. “Ok, you asked for it” I answered as I backed us up about 8 feet (we had to get a good running start) and promptly gunned the Ranger full force. We went from 1 to 90 in just seconds (well maybe 0 to 15) and hit the water with full force of our enthusiasm. The girls were screaming with delight and I gritted my teeth in anticipation of the wall of mud soon to hit me.

We created a huge wall of muddy water, it washed over the top of the Ranger, it created a brown wall as it washed over the windshield, and it seeped into the glove box and washed over our feet. The entire vehicle was suspended in time, coated with mud like a chocolate sundae! As we emerged on the other side I glanced over at the girls and saw their delighted faces suspended in time. They had huge grins spread across their face, ear to ear. They looked at me with disbelief. They could not believe the mother, commonly referred to around here, as “the fun sucker” would plow through a huge mud puddle like that!

I laughed until I cried muddy tears, but I looked at them and asked one simple question “want to do that again?”

I have never felt so silly, nor have I ever been so dirty, but I am telling you it was the most fun I have had in a long time. The girls and I couldn’t get enough, we raced through mud puddle after mud puddle and when it was over, we did it again. It was very good for my soul to let go and just be ridiculous again. I highly recommend you give it a try.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Father’s Day Fiasco

One of my favorite bucket list items is to fall in love with my husband over and over. Often these moments come at the strangest of times, usually not the romantic settings you might imagine. After nearly 24 years of marriage I cherish each and every time I find myself falling in love again. This particular time happened years ago but it is fresh in my memory every year as Father’s Day in June starts to get near.

The day started ordinarily enough, the kids and I were rushing around packing up to go camping for the weekend, and my husband was busy cleaning the grill and adding kerosene to the lanterns. We were all excited to start our summer off with a camping weekend and this was going to be an extra special trip because we were taking our new Golden Retriever puppy, Clancy, camping with us for the first time.

Clancy, feeding off the energy of the kids, was furiously chasing his tail in the backyard, at one moment just happy to be part of this obviously fun family activity called “loading the van,” and fearful the next, that he might be somehow left behind in the end.

By noon we were ready to go and kids and dog raced to claim a seat in the van. We were off like a herd of turtles. The next hour went by quickly between the trip to the lake and setting the tent up. The sun was high in the sky and the warm breeze kept pulling the kids away from camp down to the beach. We finished setting up camp, walked, fed and watered the puppy, finally tying him to the tree near his food, water and bed; unfortunately, dogs were not allowed on the beach. Clancy gave us a sad forlorn look as we marched off to the beach, lawn chairs, cooler, beach towels and sunscreen in tow.

The beach was only 200 yards from our camp, just beyond the trees surrounding our site. Clancy could hear the kids squealing with delight and splashing in the water. He was not happy to be left back at home and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t come too. In his puppy mind he was just one of the kids!

A few hours later we returned tired, sandy and sunburned to camp. As we neared our site I heard my husband exclaim “Oh my Lord!”

Dropping my armful of gear I turned to see what he was looking at. “Oh my! Look what he did!” I squealed with horror.

Before us our campsite lay in total disarray. The lawn chairs were tipped over, the lantern was on its side, even the dog kennel was toppled over! The grass looked like it had been mowed down, weeds were scattered everywhere and small saplings had been gnawed down to the roots. In the middle of this tornado of destruction sat our 6-month-old puppy with one ear cocked up and one cocked down. His lips had a strange green tint to them and his top gum was stuck to his teeth, a small piece of grass was peeking out of his mouth.

We all stopped and stared. Our son started giggling, soon his sister was doubled over beside him. My husband and I just stood there staring in disbelief. “How could one puppy have done this much damage to a campsite!” we asked each other.

Clancy seemed a bit sheepish as we all pitched in and tried to clean up our campsite. Apparently, he sensed he might have done something wrong here. He was a brilliant dog.

After showers, bug spray and hot dogs we all settled in by the campfire for s’mores. I couldn’t tell who was happier, the exhausted puppy or my kids as the sun set on our big day.

As we prepared for the evening my husband and I decided the dog would sleep outside in his kennel and the tent would be just big enough for the four of us. By 9:00 pm we had kids tucked in and the dog kenneled for the night.

Finally, a few quiet minutes alone for the mom and dad by the glowing fire!

Ya right! The kids were restless and kept asking for more water or another bathroom break. They giggled and squirmed and no attempt by us seemed to get them settled in and quiet for the night. The dog whined and sighed, whined and sighed, even talking back in his doggy way when he was scolded for the umpteenth time.

Throwing in the proverbial towel, my husband gave in and put the dog, kennel and all, in the middle of the tent. Using his best “I mean it now” Dad voice he ordered kids and dog to be silent. The dog, overexcited to finally be in the tent with the kids, promptly started chasing his tail in the kennel, the kids roared with laughter; the dog eventually got so wound up he managed to tip his kennel over, the kids were soon laughing so hard they were in tears. I looked inside in time to see the dog upside down inside his kennel, paws pointing at the top of the tent, the children with tears streaming down their checks from laughter.

At this point, even we had a hard time keeping a straight face, and soon, we too gave up and joined the three-ring circus in the tent. Deciding the only way to settle everyone down was to go to bed too. Eventually, we managed to get control of the situation and the exhausted little family of five fell asleep.

That is until the night sky was dark and the stars and moon were high in the sky; that’s when we woke to Clancy crying a rather urgent cry we’d not heard before. Dan took him outside for a potty break and it quickly became apparent where all the grass, leaves, bugs and saplings had gone—Clancy had a nasty case of the runs. All I could hear from inside the tent was a mysterious squirting sound followed by Dan’s deep chuckle and sigh of complete exasperation. Minutes passed and the two of them crawled back into the tent and we were all tucked back into our sleeping bags and dog kennel. Ahh, sleep!

An hour passed and a sudden, sad and desperate wail pierced the night air. Not again! And so it went on long into the night, every hour on the hour our youngest cried out wailing for relief and my dutiful and loving husband and father of my two children patiently took him for a short walk outside. It was a Father’s Day to remember, but I fell in love with my husband once again.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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