Final Words

It’s been a tough year, but I hope you have found plenty to celebrate. 

As we’ve had an intricate dance with a global pandemic, massive storms that have broken records and an election that is seeming to last years, not spending as much time with friends and family, I hope you’ve found time for joy. For thanksgiving, laughter and happiness. 

2020 has taken its toll. I don’t remember any other time in my life that I have I seen so much devastation and it’s heartbreaking. I’ve seen too much ugliness in our world. Friends and family literally ripping one another apart. The deepest visceral cuts ever imagined. Relationships possibly lost forever. Humanity at its tipping point. I have seen tears and pain and promises lost. I’ve seen people frozen in fear over a pandemic. 

I’ve done my best to stay neutral. As much as possible. I’ve also done my best at staying distant, wearing my mask, and making my vote count in the election ALL without sticking a knife in others, because, guess what? We live in a country of freedom and isn’t that a glorious thing? We also live in a world with a novel pandemic that science is studying and learning about, and data is changing daily. I’m doing what I can without ripping hearts out, without being ugly. Life is too short. 

As we head into this next year all I can do is pray. That’s my reassurance. I don’t live a life of fear and hate and contempt and distress or unease because for me; hope remains. I can’t and don’t allow fear to rip what is good out of me. 

I’m a natural born optimist. I live daily with enthusiastic trust and confidence that there are ALWAYS good things happening every day around me. I am a seeker of joy and ebullience. This is a such a gift, but I know it’s not from ME, it’s what’s IN me that makes the difference. 

Sure, I have moments of dismay. I get heartbroken. I cry and get angry when I see the abominable acts, brokenness and grief. In that, I still search for the jewels, still put myself in the way of joy. 

I’ve tried in earnest to keep things as “normal” as possible in our home. I think it’s made a difference. I don’t have the news on. I read the news, once a morning, to not have my head in the sand, but I don’t completely entrench myself in it, sitting in a soup of hopelessness. I have and will always maintained a good exercise program. I’ve had to adapt to gym closings and yoga studio closings early on during quarantine, but I got pretty creative on my own in our home and outside in parks. I’ve still kept up running OUTSIDE because fresh air daily is like liquid freaking GOLD for your body! I can run and not be close to people or can run in the woods with my girlfriends and have plenty of wild space to suck up all sorts of good energy, endorphins, laughter and completely detox whilst running in the sticky, humid wilderness.

I just finished a great book and loved what he said about exercise for mental and physical health;

“Movement is big medicine; it’s the signal to every cell in our bodies that no matter what kind of damage we’ve suffered, we’re ready to rebuild and move away from death and back toward life. Rest too long after an injury and your system powers down, preparing you for a peaceful exit. Fight your way back to your feet, however, and you trigger that magical ON switch that speeds healing hormones to everything you need to get stronger: your bones, brain, organs, ligaments, immune system, even the digestive bacteria in your belly, all get a molecular upgrade from exercise.”

A peaceful exit from not moving? No thanks! 

I have continued to devour books because that’s something that I’ve ALWAYS loved. I’ve read over 50 books this year. They have the ability to transport me a million miles away, make me laugh, make me cry, make me fall in love, make me heartsick, make me smart and make me brave. 

I’ve stayed off social media more, because honestly, I think it’s like dumping garbage into your soul. Hello dumpster fire. 

I’ve sustained a continuous pursuit to good food and have done a lot of new experimenting in the kitchen which has been so fun! 

Ive made green smoothies daily that LITERALLY make our insides COME TO LIFE. 

I’ve sat with my face in the sun. 

We’ve continued to chase laughter with all we have. It’s such an immune booster. 

I’ve danced daily and make my husband cringe with my music choices. (Also something I’ve done my entire life… just ask our kids, who as teenagers were completely shamefaced by it, but now have no problem “dancing it out” with their Mama.)

Water! Because water is life. 

We’ve continued to minimize and stay uncluttered physically, emotionally and materially. 

We’ve taken some pretty incredible trips this year. Not the trips we originally had planned for 2020, but we allowed the disruption of no international travel to push us to discover more of our own gorgeous country. AND because of the pandemic, it’s been easier than ever, without crowds. We were able to spend more time with our family and friends on the west coast than we normally would have and to visit places commonly plagued with tourists. Imagine standing at the monuments in Washington DC without another person around! 

It’s also turned our prayer life upside down and through that we’ve felt a colossal closeness with God and have seen an abundance of answered prayer. 

It does bother me, what this year is doing to others. I realize not everyone has the capacity to leap out of bed everyday, happy. Working from home, schooling from home, college students home, people losing family, losing jobs, healthcare workers over- worked.  It’s a lot. It’s too much, actually! So I pray. I know that’s really the only real power I have, because I know ultimately I have no control over this. 

I pray that one tiny thing can put a smile on a face or a flutter of exuberance inside someone. 

We woke up to rain this morning and when I stepped outside, our windows had ladybugs on them. Do you notice the slightest of things? Just this made me smile and wonder what so many of those tiny, spotted ladies are doing here right now? 

I pray that this nation, it’s healthcare workers, it’s  businesses and people will recover. That on a daily, we can wake and recognize a gift, even if it is that you rolled out of bed today with breath in your lungs and have a new day to live, realizing what an extraordinary person you are! How much you matter. What a difference maker you are. Just smiling at someone with the crinkle of your eyes over your mask at the grocery store, is making a difference. Do you wake every day and see what an award life is and that it’s not to be squandered or wasted? 

I pray that there are enough light shiners out there to spread light through the deepest, darkest cracks. 

I do know one thing, we are a people and a nation of resilience. A country of hardiness, toughness, determination and courage. We are overcomers! 

My word for the year is 

Fortitude. 

Spoken and pressed onto my heart by the One who knows my heart the best. I have a feeling 2021 for G and I is going to be a wild ride. We’ve been praying some outrageously, ridiculously, enormous prayers and are so expectant of answers. 

Have you been to a rodeo with the broncs and bulls in the ring? That seems like life sometimes. A non stop barrage of wild things that attempt to throw or buck off the rider and all we can do as the rider is to attempt to stay mounted. Stay planted. Stay focused. Stay steadfast. 

When inconveniences and difficulties come at us, we can stand against them, united with fortitude, together. Don’t check out and roll over. That gives you no say, no power, no conviction and no control over your thoughts. It keeps you stuck in the thoughts and will of others. It keeps you at the mercy of what others are saying and speaking  into you. It keeps you held in dead and old beliefs, wedged into fear and panic, sometimes adhered in unforgiveness, rooted in the past, inviting a different kind of stress. Do you need to forgive? Maybe just from this year? 

I’ve done a lot of hard work on things of my past. I’m so happy I’m not asked to stay there. I don’t have to live there any longer. I think about it on occasion, but honestly worked and grew enough in my 30’s that I was able to drop the deeply rooted and exhaustingly heavy load of garbage, abuse, trauma and negativity that I was immersed in, walk away and not look back. Fear and damage of the past, doesn’t have the power to keep you there. The work is worth it. I know I don’t have to stay locked into that past and that’s how I’m starting to feel about this year. I won’t stay stuck here, and will do whatever I can to forge forward. I thank God for taking those burdens of my past. Walking alongside me. Guiding me. It wasn’t magic, It wasn’t a guru, it was solely my relationship with the Lover of my Soul and truly without His guiding hand over my life I’d be a lost mess.  

I’m always grateful when a new year rolls around. It’s like stepping into a fresh new chapter. A blank page we can move on to and allow the past things to wither and die. I think for the majority of us, we feel that 2020 can certainly return to the ground, dead. I’m hopeful we can walk into a new year with renewed hope. Restoring lost things, start to heal, rebuild, soaked in strength, passion and fortitude. 

Do you dream? Like daydream? That’s something G and I have kept alive our whole relationship, we dream. A lot. Out-loud. We sit and talk about the most-wildest-things. Things we want to accomplish, things we want to do and change and places we want to see. We get giddy like teenagers. I’ve always loved that about us. We’ve knocked off quite a bucket list thus far and will continue until the wheels fall off. It gives us opportunities to look forward to and countless memories to look back on. We’ve had moments this year that have challenged us, and changed us and we’ve definitely had to adjust the sails, but we’ve done just that; yelled out “Jibe-Ho” and swung around in a new direction. If not, we would’ve stayed stuck. Complaining about what could’ve been or what we’ve missed.

2020 has given us a lot to think about and afforded us time to dig deep into things we’d like to to be different in the coming years and places in our lives that have grown stagnant, dead and need to be pruned. That’s one thing with G and I, we don’t do “stuck” very well and are fighters for movement anywhere we feel things are lifeless. Be a job, our kids, a place to live, toxic relationships, our own relationship or just overall unhappiness with a situation. We are both just stubborn enough to dig in, rip out the roots, do the hard work and stand up for what makes us happy, because again, life’s too short. I guess we’ve both always felt that, if we aren’t happy, and we know that we aren’t in a growth spurt (there is such a season) that we will tunnel in and God-willing, change some things up. 

We recently took a road trip up north. It’s a trip we usually make every year, but this year we weren’t sure about going. The pandemic PLUS we had other things that were planned, but out of nowhere came an injury that took me out of a 50-mile ultramarathon in GA that would’ve fallen too close to Thanksgiving to make the trip north this year. Instead of feeling stuck, we hopped in the car and no kidding, sang out loud and played air guitar to every great 70’s songs we could remember, while I DJ’d Spotify. I even texted my mother in law, because G was telling me some of the greatest stories from being a kid in the 70’s. He’s such a great storyteller and wildly remembers EVERY speck of his childhood. We laughed until we couldn’t breathe.

Have you kept some remnant of fun this year? 

Have things during this year changed you, but possibly  for the better? Have you had a few Jibe-Ho moments? Is it time to burrow in, rip roots and replant where joy will bloom in all circumstances? What drives your passions and are you living those out? Are you living your truest self down to you marrow? Not who you think you should be, not what others have told you to be, not how others are living, but the TRUE you? This right here, can bring an abundance of joy! Do you have the ability to laugh? Im talking those gut pulling, tear staining your cheeks, doubled over, laughter? Do you pursue your passions? Do you know what they are? Do you use your gifts and talents for something greater and bigger than yourself? Can you dive to the bottom of the quarry where stagnation lives and come up with fresh water? 

Can you find small things to celebrate? 

Great words passed down from our amazing Pastor-

Merry Christmas to you all and may this new year bring you health, happiness, purpose and wholeness.

Adjusting Our Altitude

Continuing on with our travels, we left beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with bubble water in hand (the first and most important part of driving in a car) Red Vines (second crucial piece of supply) and a various smorgasbord of road snacks appropriately divide between salty and sweet and headed to southern Idaho to meet up with our sweet girl and make our way to the Sawtooth Mountains with only our backpacks for a couple of days.

Our first stop was to gather a few items for dinners/breakfast/snacks. Oh for the love of freeze-dried meals! I always wonder what happens when you’re backpacking and stop to grab the MSR stove to cook a bag of dried food and it tastes like HEAVEN! It’s a phenomenon all of it’s own. I mean, in the real world of day to day meals, eating contents in a foil bag, boiled in water, would definitely not be the most palatable. But the goodness that is contained in those lamina bags after a day of hiking is some of the most delicious cuisine on the planet. It’s like opening up a box in December and a Christmas puppy emerges. Outrageously amazing! I cannot tell you how many times on a backpacking trip I will say “OMG this is literally the BEST veggie Pad Thai I have EVER tasted” as I’m standing and shoveling it into my mouth with my spork. Ok we’ve been to Thailand so this is a complete lie in the real world, but not after a day of backpacking.

The Sawtooths were mesmerizing. The jagged cliffs shot straight up to the sky and I just soaked in the beauty. We had such a great hike in. It was hot and dry and we laughed all day. Mainly at our daughter’s expense, who didn’t pack entirely “light” for the trip. In her defense it can take a fair amount of time to curate your perfect backpacking set up. G and I have ours down, and have for years, but have also done A LOT of backpacking. Everything is tiny and ultra lightweight. We can go WEEKS carrying everything we need and coming in at 25lbs. Our sweet daughter…..not so much.

I was really hoping for some bear sightings along the hike in, but didn’t see a single one. We were hiking in mid-morning so we were probably a little late for that. When we got to our primitive little campsite there were bear signs all over. We didn’t have our bear vault so I fashioned a little pulley system in a tree for our food and smelly items. Our daughter told us in all the trips she has taken out in the Sawtooths, she always kept her food in her tent. My mouth dropped open. Oye! I had to be a “Mom” and fill her in on Backpacking 101. Man I love that kid.

After leaving the Sawtooths we took off for Moab. In all of the time living in the West (our entire lives) G and I have never been to Moab. Why? We had no idea, but WOW! We were both so blown away by this amazing landscape. The twisting rocks, rose up to meet the daily sunshine wrapped in the bluest sky. The baked-in terra-cotta and garnet colors of the archways and cliffs butted up to incredible alpine peaks, far surpassed anything we had imagined. Our first day there we made a hike into a waterfall that a local told us about. Tucked back into a mineral rich, crimson valley, this place was a gorgeous oasis. The deep pool making the perfect plunge for locals.

Great dive!!

That night we headed with beers in hand to the heights of Dead Horse Point. It’s like the Grand Canyon of Utah. We loved being there for sunset and watching as the landscape below us changed colors and shadows danced. The sun set and we marveled at how for a good 50 minutes after it went down, there was still a glowing ember in the sky. It was the longest sunset we’ve ever witnessed. Truly God’s masterpiece!

The next day we woke early to make the hike to Delicate Arch for sunrise. Driving into our parking site we couldn’t see what was waiting for us after the sun rose. We hiked in the quiet, cool air of the desert in the faintest of light, making our way to the arch just as the sun rose to wake the day. We sat in amazement. The browns, reds, yellows and oranges came to life on this arch that is balancing in the middle of a sandstone valley. We had never seen anything like it. Why we hadn’t visited Moab before this, was beyond us and we fell in LOVE. We are already planning a trip. Taking mountain bikes to hit some of the incredible slick-rock trails and stay in one of the Glamp-ing yurts.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Arches. We did a great trail run in Devils Garden visiting Landscape Arch, Navajo, Partition and Double O arches. We felt like kids climbing all over these sandstone walls that you magically stick to. We can’t wait to go back.

Throughout this entire trip we just kept thinking how grateful we are. Grateful that during a pandemic, we can still find tons of adventure, new opportunities and travel to new places. Grateful for nature and our complete love of the mountains and water. Grateful that we had three weeks to see our family and friends and explore some of our own country. Grateful for our health and the ability to backpack the mountains and run in the desert. Grateful for a God that gave us such an incredible and diverse landscape to play in and painted some unimaginable sunrises and sunsets just for us. Grateful for pine. The rugged trails. The dirt. For peaks & summits. Grateful that we took the time to go wild for a while. We love to travel unscripted and without a schedule. No plans, other than where the wind blows us.

We returned back to Denver and spent some time in the mountains there. Talking about which fourteener we’d like to take on next and the possibility of backpacking the Colorado Trail again. We knew our trip was coming to an end and that our time in the mountains was closing. We allowed the deep peacefulness and tranquility to filter through us. We welcomed in ourselves, the ability to feel small and humble and gain some new perspective on our future. We prayed a lot and were and still are, expectant for answers.

For us being in the mountains is almost too much sometimes. It’s a beautiful spoonful of wonderment, that never gets old and never eases or let’s up. Almost as if our heart is trying but unable to gather it all up. We look and stare again and again, but it’s never enough. I can’t explain it any better that to say that it just gives us a deep ache inside. It’s like being with family……needing one more day. It’s why I cry every time I see them and every time we leave.

We allowed time to stand still, gave way for our mind to imprint the imagines, take in the smells, listen to nature and taste the clean air until we meet again. Our hearts expand, gather up as much as possible and hold on.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ~ John Muir

Wild Wild West

Well howdy there. G and I have been out traveling, doing what we called our Wild West Tour.

With Corona virus still raging through the country, closing international borders, we thought we would use our time to do some in-country travel. We’ve missed the West, our family and our kids. Since the Hood to Coast Relay was ALSO cancelled, we thought we’d head to the sunset side of the country a little earlier than the late August trip we had planned.

We started off making our first stop in Denver, CO. We will come back around to this at a later date. Denver was also our last stop before returning East, because honestly, we just can’t get enough of that Rocky Mountain area. Both G and I have always had a “thing” with the area, so it’s always fun when we can have some extended time there.

Good Morning Tetons
Day before I finish GVRAT

We wandered our way through the Tetons in Wyoming and Yellowstone in Montana after leaving Colorado. Making note that the Teton glaciers will definitely be in the running for our next long backpacking trip.

Can’t be in Coeur d’Alene and not hike Mineral

Second on our list was Big Sky, Montana. We love it! It’s always been a favorite ski area with our family and when we lived in Minneapolis, it was a trip we took often to get some nice, steep, slopes loaded with fresh pow! It’s just stunning all times of the year. I was working through my mileage to finish off the GVRAT 1000k (and now continuing back across, because I’m a glutton for punishment a lover of running) I chose to finish my 1000k on our last day in Big Sky. Waking up on the mountain, with Lone Peak, still with it’s snowy patches, out our window, just stoked our mountain running love affair. The air was crisp, clear and filled with the scent of evergreen forest. The trails were buffed and soft with pine needles and it made those last few miles an absolutely perfect finishline.

The Finish Line of 1000k
Searching for breath in the thinner air.

We soaked in the mountain vibes, sat outside drinking fabulous Montana beer and just really took in the enormity of those western ranges.

It’s a funny thing, our love of the mountains. I remember when we lived in MN and would take our ski trips to Montana, the anguish my soul felt when we would leave. I’d often be sobbing and it would take the ache days to go away, once we returned to the Mid West. It’s like something in the fabric of our lives was off. Our DNA was made to be steep and it’s why a lot of our trips have always been through hiking and climbing big mountains. With G growing up in the mountains of Northern Idaho and me in Northern California, it is just wound into our pneuma. So it was no surprise when I got that first glimpse of the Rockies and started to cry. Actually I take that back, it WAS a surprise, because since being in NC, we have spent A LOT of time in the mountains. Almost every weekend, hiking, climbing and running and have loved every single second of it. But something inside me broke and I was left longing.

Our time in Denver and Big Sky went by too quickly. We drank in the mountain air, literally. I remember running and saying to G “I can actually draw in huge, full, gulps of air” which if you’re living in the south right now, you have no idea what I mean…. or you do, and are looking forward to fall/winter running when the air isn’t thick and oppressive and slapping you in the face when you step outside. I LOVE humidity, but not when I’m running. I think in a perfect world it would be humid for morning dog walking, firefly watching and porch-sitting and crisp and arid at the perfect time for my daily runs. But for now, I’ll have to deal with the daily beat-down of humid, hot air that constantly assaults me while I run.

Distance like a Grizzly and wash like a Raccoon

When we got to Idaho and Coeur d’Alene it was full-steam-ahead with a steady stream of visits with family and friends. It’s hard living somewhere so long, and coming back as a visitor. You know your time is limited and we always try to stretch it out anyway we can, but it’s never enough. Now looking back, we wish we would’ve stayed longer, since we weren’t really on any schedule. We had fun acting like tourists in a town that is so close to our hearts. Running with our kids at English Point, hiking Tubbs, Mineral Ridge and Lost Man Trail all made it to the top of our list. We had fun watching our Goldie-girl realize she was back where she had learned and trained to run trails with us. Her old stomping grounds.

We were able to see friends who now live in AZ that were back in ID visiting their kids. God had impeccable timing. We were so grateful.

I know one thing; solid friends are solid friends and no matter the distance we are separated by now, when we walk into their homes, sit in their back yards having dinner, and picking up right where we left off on our last visit home, it’s magical! Unchanged and constant in my life, they are my sisters and are such gifts to me.

The time we had with our own kids flew by. We always want one more day. Always. I think that’s the way it is for parents. We raise such independent kids, who grow, and fly off and we are so proud, honored and satisfied with the jobs we did raising them and of their accomplishments and then the go and be adults, and you’re left with with the want of “one more day.” G and I feel fortunate to be able to see our kids often, even on the other side of the country. But no matter the time, the yearning of one more day is always present.

I think Covid has us all revisiting what’s important. G and I have really been talking about this a lot. This pandemic, as terrible as it has been, has also given us all the time to stop and redefine some things. To bring into focus what’s most important. To see things differently and with more clarity. To appreciate, recognize and discover what is paramount for us. It’s brought things that may have been in the back of our minds to the forefront and has made them more acute and pivotal. It’s has us both listening so raptly to that Still, Small, Voice. Waiting patiently, and watchfully. It has turned our prayer life upside down and has driven it to a whole new depth. It has made us both keenly and profoundly aware of some goals and dreams that may have slipped to the back of the lineup, that seem to have new breath being inflated into them. We recently had sweet friends that after years and years living out of the country, decide to come back, saying Covid and a recent birthday really put some things into perspective with a new angle and outlook. Has it had this effect on you? Has it brought around a new vibrancy and newness to chapters you’ve maybe left half read? Has it spurred some new passions that maybe you’ve shelved for a later time? Take the book down off of the shelf, dust off the cobwebs and crack its weary spine open. What do you see?

I think it’s in most of our natures to grow. I also think for some, the thought of growth or change can be paralyzing. I think Covid has either nudged or downright pushed some entirely out of their comfort zone.

For G and I we use our time in the mountains for prayer, reflection and to bust ourselves out of stagnation. We are most inspired on long hiking trips. We have some of our best conversations either hiking or sitting in the ocean on our surfboards. Maybe it’s the thin air and altitude, but more likely it’s the place that’s the most quiet where we hear the voice of God. We are both pretty content people, but are both constantly seeking to evolve. We have been gifted in knowing when and when not to make a move unless we both feel a prompting. Things tend to be disastrous when we put our own plans before God’s plans for us, but we ALWAYS see how even in the confusion and jumbled disarray we can sometimes step into, God works things out for the best. It’s such a comfort to us, having that faith.

Beautiful Coeur d’Alene
This was her back yard for the first three years of life. Happy Doggo

The mountains give us a great escape from the noise and chaos. They are simple. Their scents and sounds, Fauna and Flora provide us soul-blanketing relief. They make us feel small and for me, like a young child.

Their balm was so welcome on this trip.